Phase 3: The Will to Accept (1929-1932)

After shock and remembrance comes acceptance. At the end of the 1920s, a fashion for black buildings emerges, like tombstones scattered across the city. For the eye, the absorbent black performs the opposite function to the glaring white of a decade earlier. Black accepts the gaze, rather than reflects it. Mourning and loss, now accepted, can flow into it and be represented by it.

Ideal House, Great Marlborough St, Soho, S Gordon Jeeves with Raymond Hood, 1927-29 (Black granite facing) . © RO’C

The Pantheon, 169-73 Oxford St, (black granite), 1937-38,
elevations by Robert Lutyens. © RO’C

This inability to let go of the dead is, for me, what lies at the root of the failure of mourning in the 1920s and of its transformation into subconscious, neurotic PTSD in the 1930s and beyond. It became the fate of architecture, through the faithful ministrations of its earnest practitioners, think of the Smithsons, to rebuild the home that soldiers had made for themselves on the Front, so that the survivors might gaze on it again, and let it go.