C.H.B. Quennell (1872-1935): architecture, history and the quest for the modern

McKellar, Elizabeth (2007). C.H.B. Quennell (1872-1935): architecture, history and the quest for the modern. Architectural History, 50 pp. 211–246.

URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40033853


This article provides the first comprehensive account of the career of C. H. B. Quennell, concentrating particularly on his writings. The majority of these were previously unknown, with the notable exception of the ‘Everyday Things’ series co-authored with his wife Marjorie. The combination of his historical interests and his enthusiastic championing of industrialization and modern design throughout his career forms the major theme of the essay. His work is discussed in relation to a number of issues which were critical at the time: the tension between modernity and tradition; issues of standardization and craftsmanship; and the relationship between British and continental design. Quennell was active 1895-1935 and his output provides powerful evidence for the continuities in design interests between the pre and inter-War periods, periods which are usually discussed in discrete compartments. The article provides evidence for an alternative interpretation of early twentieth-century architecture to the stylistically-based accounts that currently prevail. An analysis of Quennell’s work shows that there were a set of common themes c.1895-1935 – issues of the economical, the appropriate, the well-made and the liveable - which ran throughout the period and which to a large extent can be separated from and transcended those of style. Through an account of a single architect the essay seeks, not just to raise awareness of an unjustly neglected figure, but also to raise questions about the existing periodization and broader context of British architecture between the 1890s and the 1930s.

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