Citizenship: Welfare and the Democratic State in Percy Thomas’s Civic Architecture

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‘The suffering and waste caused by unemployment are as important as was the provision of munitions during the war’, wrote David Lloyd George, arguing for a national government-organised campaign of public works to resolve the devastation of the depression and improve the nation’s infrastructure. In another military comparison, Percy Thomas’s inaugural address as RIBA President urged architects to engage in ‘National Service’ through urban planning: ‘We exist solely to serve the community and we must bend our utmost powers to that end’. The image of a benevolent democratic state was increasingly constructed, particularly through large municipal projects. Much of Percy Thomas’s outstanding interwar work reflects such concerns, including town halls (particularly Swansea Guildhall), police and fire stations, and other civic and educational buildings. Thomas’s Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff symbolised and accommodated a national health service for Wales. At Tunbridge Wells, vocal opposition to Thomas’s Civic Centre project clearly reveals how civic buildings were conceived in relation to national concerns about the role of the state in the new post-war age of mass democracy. Through symbolism and in the direct welfare effects of his buildings, Percy Thomas’s architecture contributed to this changing political culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReconstruction: Architecture, Society and the Aftermath of the First World War
EditorsNeal Shasore, Jessica Kelly
Place of PublicationLondon, U. K.
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)9781350152960
ISBN (Print)9781350152946
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2022


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