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Something out of the 'Ordinary'

Adler, Gerald (2012) Something out of the 'Ordinary'. In: The Cultural Role of Architecture: contemporary and historical perspectives. Routledge, Abingdon, UK, pp. 141-150. ISBN 978-0-415-78340-8. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:60530)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


The architect Robert Maguire’s scheme for St Paul’s church at Bow Common, London (1958-60) is a design often overlooked in the roll-call of significant Brutalist architecture. In terms of religious buildings, Le Corbusier’s church at Ronchamp (1950-54) and Gillespie Kidd and Coia’s seminary at Cardross (1958-66) are frequently feted by architects, and by architectural historians. However, the Scottish seminary is today appreciated more for its status as a modern ruin, a cause the writer Brian Dillon has so eloquently espoused, than for its embodiment of human life. In this paper I examine a particular episode in British architecture, in which the architects’ deep engagement with a living, growing and questioning culture (in this case, the liturgical movement in the Anglican Church) led to the commissioning of a building whose use value continues unabated to this day, mitigating any descent into disuse and ruin.

St Paul’s, as well as the later churches Maguire designed with his partner Keith Murray, was adept at responding to the specific architectural culture of 1960s’ Britain in addition to the emerging new cult of the Church of England’s liturgical movement. What is fascinating is to revisit Bow Common and see its architectural largesse accommodate the kaleidoscope of cultures now present in London’s East End.

The chapter discusses this remarkable oeuvre and examines how it engages with its contemporary overlapping architectural, social, and communal cultures in a way which, in the words of Maguire,

serv[es] life through buildings... although that sounds pretentious, [...] I mean it at a rather simple level, in the sense of making things which help people in their lives as individuals or communities, rather than placing burdens on them [...].

Robert Maguire, ‘Something out of the ‘Ordinary’

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: architectural history - British - liturgical reform
Subjects: N Visual Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
Depositing User: Gerald Adler
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2017 17:42 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:24 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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