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Kings, Queens and Princely Palaces Final Part

April 8th, 2009

So here we are, we’ve gone through 500 or so years of history, umpteen style periods and architectural compositions and now we’re almost up to date.  We left our guide at the mid point of the 20th century, just before Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne so let’s take  early fifties as our starting point. I hope you’re sitting comfortably because this will take a while!

With the end of the 1940s, and the turn into the later half of the 20th Century, there was a renewed sense of optimism and creativity in the air.  It would be remiss to discuss the 1950s architecture without mention of Le Corbusier. A prolific architect with designs spanning the entire first half of the 20th Century, he seemed to hit a peak in the 1950s with over 15 projects being built in this decade. Perhaps one of the most distinctive is the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp in France. Whilst certainly not to everyone’s taste, it is an outstanding architectual masterpiece.

Internally, the 1950s saw the dawn of open plan living and the fitted kitchen, complete with formica worktops, chrome appliances and all the mod-cons a housewife of the time could ask for. Living rooms may well have seen some of the divine designs from Charles and Ray Eames, Robin and Lucienne Day or from Arne Jacobsen, pieces which are still popular today.

Moving into the 1960s and  Christian Dior,  moved into designing interiors, as did the great British designer Mary Quant. Whilst technology and movies like Kubricks’ 2001 A Space Odyssey looked far into the future (and for which Arne Jacobsen cutlery was used as props), fashion was looking to the past for inspiration and interior design was able to take influence from both angles. New designers such as Terence Conran began setting up their own stores which gave the masses an opportunity to buy into the designer lifestyle. With pod shaped furniture and art deco designs morphing into psychedelic art the 1960s were awash with colour and vibrancy. Taking over from the American look of the 1950s, Swinging London was the hip and happening place. Look out for the classic ball chair from Eero Aarnio for a great 1960s talking piece and take a stroll down the South Bank in London for some 1960s architecture.

1971 and in London, the Barbican was being built, after being in the pipeline for over 15 years and Trellick Tower designed by Erno Goldfinger was nearing completion. Over the water in America, Frank O. Gehry was making a name for himself with his cardboard furniture.  This was the decade that ‘open plan’ really started to take off, how many of us still live in 1970s properties with open staircases, a large footprint, garage and garden? Think brown cord sofas and wicker occassional tables finished with a lava lamp and you’re on the right lines for a 1970s interior.

Greed, money and big shoulder pads are the tipifiers of the 1980s style. It’s easy to think of the decade as flashy and brash and interiors were just an extension of this attitude, used to display wealth. Possibly the best display of the 1980s vision is Trump Tower in New York, USA. The 56 story building was built by Donald Trump and was completed in 1983. The public spaces include swathes of marble, bronze, crystal and running water for a luxurious and expensive feel. The photos of the apartments are enough to make your mouth water!

At the end of the last century, the United Kingdom seemed to become obsessed with DIY and televisions shows such as ‘Changing Rooms’ were all the rage.  There was also a whole ‘chuck out your chintz’ movement going on spurred on by the opening of the swedish furniture store, Ikea, on UK shores. No more pelmets and swags on curtains, we wanted sleek blinds and ‘tab’ curtains. No more mahogany furniture, we wanted light, bright beech veneer flat packs. Homes for the masses were being built with en suites to the master bedrooms, and people like Terry Farrell were building ships to house MI6.

With all this going on, what will we be looking back on from the ‘Noughties’ at the end of this year?

Useful links

http://www.designmuseum.org/ A great repository for information on all the greatest designers including those mentioned above and many that we simply don’t have the space to mention!

http://www.franklloydwright.org For information about Frank Lloyd Wright.

http://www.barbican.org.uk/about-barbican For the history of this amazing building and public space.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/homes/ For a great starting point on design eras and some hints to follow.

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