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Festival of Britain

Festival of Britain. National celebratory event throughout the United Kingdom in 1951. Plans were laid by the then Labour Government, and ( Sir) Gerald Reid Barry (1898–1968) was appointed Director-General. Partly inspired by the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Festival was later said to be a ‘manifestation of gaiety and ordered imagination in a world …short of both’. The centrepiece of the Festival was a major exhibition on the South Bank of the Thames in London housed in various purpose-built structures, the whole architectural development under the direction of Hugh Casson. While the exhibition was intended to encourage national achievements, inventions, and so on, attracting custom from abroad, thereby improving morale and the economy after the economic doldrums following the 1939–45 war, it also offered a great opportunity to show off modern architecture, design, and planning principles. Of all the structures on the site, only the Royal Festival Hall (by Leslie Martin, Robert Matthew, and a large team) remains, although the river-front was later extended and altered. The main buildings were the Dome of Discovery ( Ralph Tubbs (1912–96) ), the administrative block (Fry, Drew, and Edward David Mills (1915–98) ), the Skylon (Powell & Moya with Felix Samuely (1905–59) ), the Minerals and Land Pavilion (Architects' Co-Partnership), the Natural Scene and the Country ( Brian O'Rourke and Frederick Henri Kay Henrion (1914–90) ), the Power and Production Pavilion ( George Grenfell-Baines and Heinz J. Reifenberg (1894–1968) ), the Sea and Ships Pavilion (Basil Spence), the Transport exhibit (Arcon), the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion ( Robert Yorke Goodden (1909–2002) and Richard Drew Russell (1903–81) ), and the Land of Britain ( Henry Thomas Cadbury-Brown (1913– ) ).

The Festival brought Modernism to the attention of the public, popularizing certain aspects and motifs that recurred in design over the following decade.

Bibliography

Banham & Hillier (eds.) (1976)

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Festival of Britain

Festival of Britain a festival celebrated with lavish exhibitions and shows throughout Britain, especially at the South Bank in London (see Skylon) in May 1951, to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851.

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