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All roof, no wall: Peter Boston, A-frames, and the Primitive Hut in Twentieth-century British Architecture c. 1890-1970

McKellar, Elizabeth (2019). All roof, no wall: Peter Boston, A-frames, and the Primitive Hut in Twentieth-century British Architecture c. 1890-1970. Architectural History, 62 (In Press).

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Ruskin wrote that the English cottage and the Swiss chalet were prime examples of ‘authentic’ buildings which embodied national characteristics. This article will investigate both chalets and cottages in relation to their position as the ur-structures in the architectural creation story that is ‘the primitive hut’. It will explore the formulation of a vernacular version of the primitive cabin in British architecture from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Furthermore, it will situate such primitivism within a larger transnational identity of northern European vernacularism which informed both architectural design and historiography. Joseph Rykwert’s seminal text On Adam's House in Paradise: the Idea of the Primitive Hut in Architectural History (1971) sought to show how the idea of a ‘first’ house had been an animating principle in modern architecture, despite its propagandists’s adherence to a notion of conceptual purity. This article will similarly seek to explore the connections between a very particular type of modern house in Britain - A-frames of the 1950s and 1960s - and their emergence from a much longer history of British and Scandinavian-German primitivism centred on the cruck-frame. The focus will be on a small number of architect-designed individual examples and will include an introduction to one of its main proponents, Peter Boston (1918-99). The tension between the A-frame’s familiarity as a universal dwelling type and its adoption as a signifier of modernity will be a central theme. It will be argued that in the British twentieth-century context the ‘modern’ included a strong vernacular element and that the new A-frames, which formed part of the ‘timber revival’ of the 1950s and 1960s, were informed by a long-standing interest in the history of cruck-framed construction from the Arts and Crafts onwards, which in turn was part of a wider pan-North European building culture.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2019 The Author
ISSN: 2059-5670
Keywords: architecture; history; Britain; twentieth-century; A-frames; Peter Boston; modernism; primitivism
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Arts and Humanities > Art History
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Arts and Humanities
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Item ID: 62211
Depositing User: Elizabeth McKellar
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2019 12:59
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2019 15:00
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