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Houses of paper and brown cardboard: Neville Chamberlain and the establishment of the Building Research Station at Garston in 1925

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Abstract:

Neville Chamberlain's significance in the history of twentieth-century planning is well known. One key episode, however, has been overlooked: his role in the 1925 expansion and transfer to permanent premises of the Building Research Station (BRS), later known as the Building Research Establishment (BRE). The BRS had been established originally in 1921 but with temporary staff in temporary premises. In its post-1925 form, the BRS was to have a world-wide impact, both as a model for similar organizations in other countries and in the development of building science as a discipline. The paper shows how the espousal of new methods of construction formed a key part of the new approach to housing developed by Chamberlain as part of the 'New Conservatism' in 1924; how the promotion of new methods was inserted by Chamberlain into the 1924 Housing Act (Wheatley Act) introduced by the minority Labour government in 1924; and how, following the Conservatives' return to power in November 1924, the BRS was transformed into something much larger in order to deliver 'the Chamberlain programme' of research for municipal housing. As such, the paper suggests that state-funded building research formed the talisman of the social-democratic confluence over state housing that emerged for the first time in Britain in the mid-1920s.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02665430701379431

Affiliations: Department of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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