Tomorrow on display: American and British housing exhibitions, 1940-1950
McKellar, Erin E.
MetadataShow full item record
American and British exhibitions of town planning, dwellings, and home furnishings proliferated during World War II as architects seized an opportunity to rethink housing on a mass scale. “Tomorrow on Display” analyzes a range of these displays to illuminate how wartime planning and modern architecture were inextricably intertwined. The dissertation demonstrates how concepts such as the neighborhood unit and the production of modern dwellings were spurred by the war as architects in the U.S. and Britain envisioned more egalitarian forms of living. But it also illustrates how architects, curators, and institutions promoted such concepts, visualizing postwar housing for non-professional audiences by connecting architectural designs to ideas about democracy during and following the war. As “Tomorrow on Display” shows, with men enlisted in the conflict, many of these new curators and museum personnel were women. Chapter one analyzes the exhibitions Wartime Housing (Museum of Modern Art, 1942) and Rebuilding Britain (Royal Institute of British Architects, 1943) to illustrate how curators framed the war as an opportunity to modernize housing. Chapter two examines Look at Your Neighborhood (MoMA, 1944) and Planning Your Neighborhood (Army Bureau of Current Affairs, 1945) to illuminate the ways in which town-planning displays communicated to visitors the egalitarian potential of the neighborhood unit. Chapter three looks at Integrated Building (MoMA, 1945) and Kitchen Planning (British Gas Industry, 1945) to elucidate how kitchen-planning exhibits encouraged women to think of the postwar future by planning their new homes. Finally, chapter four studies how model housing displays such as Idea House II (Walker Art Center, 1947-48) and 4 Ways of Living (Ministry of Health/Council of Industrial Design, 1949) encouraged postwar audiences to envision themselves living in and furnishing modern homes. Collectively this research reveals how curators and their institutions called upon visitors to advocate, personalize, and consume as democratic duties. Ultimately, the project argues that the exhibitions’ underlying ideological agendas constructed and reinforced a democratic citizenry to combat the totalitarian regimes against which the U.S. and Britain were unified.
RightsAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International