Subtopia: photography, architecture and the new towns programme

Catrica, P. 2012. Subtopia: photography, architecture and the new towns programme. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design

TitleSubtopia: photography, architecture and the new towns programme
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsCatrica, P.

Subtopia aims to build a cognitive map of the contemporary condition of the New Towns in the United Kingdom. The written argument proposes an archaeology of the visual paradigms that inform the photographic representation of landscape and architecture. It investigates and discusses the history and the historiography of those visual paradigms through the scrutiny of content (subject) and form (aesthetics) in order to acknowledge a critical viewpoint to the photographs of Subtopia.

Assuming a descriptive mood, the photographs of the visual component endorse landscape as a cultural construction. They look into urbanism and architecture as ideological epitomes, seen through the organization of public spaces. As visual fragments of a non-existent whole, the intent is to create an imaginary new town by assembling photographs from five different towns, chosen according to the different historical and political phases of the New Towns programme: Stevenage (1946), Harlow (1947), Cumbernauld (1955) Runcorn (1964) and Milton Keynes (1967).

The thesis contributes to new knowledge in the history and the historiography of the New Towns in Britain. The written theory proposes a critical investigation of historical representations of architecture and the urban space, discussing the cultural environment that informed the photographs. Aiming to go beyond the sheer contextualization of the visual component, the writing examines how photographs engage with the discourses of history, architecture and urbanism. Through a dual subjective mode, as documents and as artistic representations, the photographs of the visual component Subtopia look at and trace distinctive elements of the landscape design and architecture, aiming to create an allegory of the New Towns Programme. Ultimately, the thesis proposes a new understanding in the representation of the ‘social’ landscape and the ideological expectations of the post-war urban planning in Britain.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
PublishedFeb 2012
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

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