Wide Angle View: Architecture as social space in the Manplan series 1969-70



By the late 1960s, The Architectural Review had a history of campaigning for important issues related to the built environment. Photography had long been at the centre of their strategy as a means to communicate ideas and make them more easily understood by a lay audience. However, the project they embarked on in 1969, called ‘Manplan’, was revolutionary both in ambition and in execution. A brainchild of Hubert de Cronin Hastings, long time proprietor and part-time editor of the magazine, the project was conceived as an analysis of the state of architecture and urban planning in Britain at the end of the decade and ran as a series of eight special issues, from September 1969 to September 1970. Each issue was devoted to an individual area of human activity that was considered affected by design and planning choices. Under the supervision of series editor Tim Rock, each issue’s guest editor worked with a specially invited photographer chosen from the world of photojournalism and street photography rather than architectural photography. The photographs taken for the ‘Manplan’ project did not simply illustrate but articulated very strongly the theme of each issue. They frequently included in the composition people inhabiting and using the spaces studied by the survey, thereby shifting the focus from the architecture itself to the human element within the built environment. Designers Michael Reid and Peter Baistow – who was also an accomplished photographer - created a graphically powerful backdrop for the work of the guest photographers. Imbued with the spirit of photo-reportage and shot on 35mm cameras, the black and white images were reproduced - often at full page - using a special matt-black ink, which made them even more dramatic. The overall message was a powerful, uncompromising and highly critical comment on contemporary living conditions, which embodied both the idealism of the 1960s and the disillusionment felt at the end of that decade, while many of the issues addressed are still extremely relevant today. Most of the photographs in the exhibition and catalogue, taken by renowned professionals such as Ian Berry, Patrick Ward and Tony Ray-Jones, have never been published or exhibited before (apart from their use in the Manplan issues), while some of them were taken for the project but ultimately not used.

Includes a foreword by Norman Foster, one of the original guest editors of the Manplan series.

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RIBA Publishing
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