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A history of references

The attitudes to history evident in the work of specific architects, historical and contemporary, form our focus here. We want to look back, but with a mind to the present and future, to understand how history has been used today and in history. Referencing, quoting, copying, stealing, rejecting—these are all ways of dealing with what came before us, and we’re interested in how architects take a position in relation to the past in order to produce work that’s relevant for their time.

Article 13 of 13

History of Architecture and Design 1890–1939

A course by the Open University

Title card of television broadcast 9 of A305, “Berlin Siedlungen,” first aired 10 May 1975 on BBC2.

Between 1975 and 1982, The Open University broadcast a series of televised courses on the genealogy of the modern movement: A305, History of Architecture and Design 1890–1939. Through twenty-four programs aired on BBC 2, the course team aimed to offer students and viewers a critical understanding of the intentions and views of the world that fuelled the modern movement, and to present some of the alternative traditions that flourished alongside it. The course nevertheless avoided the more dismissive positions of its contemporaries, while engaging political issues of its day such postwar urban planning and the housing question.

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Our exhibition The University Is Now on Air: Broadcasting Modern Architecture offers a close reading of A305 as a pioneering case study in the use of mass media for mass education. We invite you to watch the twenty-four broadcasts of the course on our YouTube channel, and reflect on the timeliness of authoring new histories and what it means to disseminate these histories in an always-particular moment in time. You can follow the order of broadcasts originally intended by team course leader Tim Benton and primary BBC producer Nick Levinson:

The A305 television broadcasts were part of a broader body of work which included broadcasting supplements, radio programs, a radiovision booklet, anthologies, and other course materials. Visit the exhibition page of The University Is Now on Air: Broadcasting Modern Architecture to learn more about this project and the A305 course.

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