Mirror Images

This is a series of images that, for me, correspond between the First World War and Sixties architecture. Image upon image, the pairs accumulate to establish the foundations of a proof. I also present some of my own thoughts about each image pair.

Here, I am suggesting that not only was there a general effect of events on architecture, but that, at least in the case of the First World War, the effect was to reproduce a landscape which reflected not only a prevailing mood, but the material landscape of that event itself. In other words, a Sixties housing estate not only reflects morose interiority and isolation derived from the recent past (along with the Sixties’ countervailing adventurous, futuristic mood), but it reproduces in detail the look itself of the Western Front. Sixties architecture is literally the trenches remade. Put a picture of a Sixties estate beside a picture of the trenches, and they are the same; not dialectical images of opposing difference this time, but mirror images, as one.

The idea for these originated on two walks through London, one to the Imperial War Museum, the other, a few months later, to the Marquess Road estate in Canonbury. I experienced similar feelings. The two seemed connected …

Imperial War MuseumMarquess Road estate

Reconstruction of a trench at the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth;
Marquess Road estate, Islington

This is what led to the initial hypothesis: that the motivating root for characteristic architecture in Britain of the 1950s and 1960s was the landscape of the Western Front. But it also led to a more psychological diagnosis, based on both the symptomatic images and the mirror images: that ‘Sixties architecture’ is a manifestation of the final stages of a profound and widespread case of post-traumatic stress disorder.