Oliver Hill and the Enigma of British Modernism during the Inter-War Period

MPhil Thesis

Vanden Berghe, Vanessa 2013. Oliver Hill and the Enigma of British Modernism during the Inter-War Period. MPhil Thesis University of East London School of Arts and Digital Industries https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.4016
AuthorsVanden Berghe, Vanessa
TypeMPhil Thesis

This thesis analyses the work of Oliver Hill (1887-1968) from 1920 to 1935 a
period of significance for his architectural practice. The study of Hill’s career
during these years offers a revealing point of entry into various modernist
languages that were developing in early twentieth century Britain. Although
hugely popular during his lifetime, Hill has been largely neglected in the
selective historiography of modernism, which continues to place his work in
opposition to an ‘authoritative’ modernity derived from continental architectural practices and which has achieved prominence in the post-war era. This research seeks to challenge this restrictive view by locating Hill at the centre of architectural research into British modernism rather than on the margins, hence shedding new light on alternative expressions of modernism emerging in British interwar architecture.

Drawing on the Oliver Hill papers stored in the archives of the RIBA, this thesis
explores Hill’s position and approach to modernity and it offers an expanded
and more sympathetic framework using key examples of Hill’s architecture,
interiors and exhibition design practice produced during the period, for the
interpretation of his work. This study highlights the diverse ways in which
architects interwove their own beliefs with those of their clients to achieve
designs which were responsive to a broader cultural context. My proposal is
that Hill’s approach offered a highly sophisticated engagement to modern social life and its connections with commerce, gender and the past. This wider context challenges more conventional understandings of Hill’s position within British architecture of the 1920s and 30s and illuminates the importance that emerging patronage groups held for his work.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.4016
Publication dates
PrintSep 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited11 Mar 2015
Publisher's version
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