Designing the Suburban Middlebrow: The Ordinary Church Architecture of Reynolds and Scott

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Reynolds & Scott of Manchester was one of the most prolific of post-war church architecture firms in Britain; yet its work was never published in the mainstream architectural press, and the architects wrote little of interest about their work. Recently, when English Heritage realised that the Scott in the partnership was not one of the more famous architectural dynasty, it delisted one of their churches to allow for its demolition. The churches themselves, all for suburban Roman Catholic parishes, were invariably decades behind architectural fashion, deliberately ignoring a rapidly growing movement for liturgically-informed modern church architecture in the late 1950s to pursue a more conservative approach. Their churches often adopted loosely historical styles in an unmistakeably twentieth-century manner – often an austere Byzantine-Romanesque, sometimes a lighter Gothic using simple concrete portal frames. Still, they are undeniably attractive, with pleasing silhouettes and internal volumes and often richly decorated with high-quality craftsmanship. This paper will seek to understand such buildings according to the notion of the ‘middlebrow’, recently advanced in literary criticism and drawing on Bourdieu: as cultural forms aimed not to shock existing taste or to revolutionise high art, but to reinforce existing middle-class norms; and yet also intended to elevate the work above popular mass-produced culture, through intelligent design and a moderate appropriation of modernist techniques. Just as middlebrow literature is often sympathetically concerned with the suburb, so Reynolds & Scott’s work contributed to the building up and the social identity of the suburb, following the middle-class tastes of its parish priests and many of its parishioners, cognate with the tastes expressed in other suburban architecture and culture. This argument will be partly articulated through an analysis of the firm’s architectural drawings, exploring how the middlebrow may be designed through everyday drawing practices in a busy office.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 10 Jun 2015
EventBehind the Scenes: The Hidden Mechanisms of Design and Architectural Culture - Canterbury School of Architecture, University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jun 201511 Jun 2015

Conference

ConferenceBehind the Scenes: The Hidden Mechanisms of Design and Architectural Culture
CountryUK United Kingdom
CityCanterbury
Period10/06/1511/06/15

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    Proctor, R. (2015). Designing the Suburban Middlebrow: The Ordinary Church Architecture of Reynolds and Scott. Paper presented at Behind the Scenes: The Hidden Mechanisms of Design and Architectural Culture, Canterbury, UK United Kingdom.