Homes and Gardens


Architects: Bronek Katz and Reginald Vaughan
Theme Conveners: A. Hippisley Coxe and S. D. Coooke

The “People of Britain” Pavilion shows how the British stock was blended. “The Lion and the Unicorn” displays some facets of the British character. It is not within the scope of the South Bank Exhibition, however, to trace the course of British Social History in full.

The “Homes and Gardens” Pavilion takes the past as read, and the visitor follows the British people straight into their homes – the homes of the present time. Here, he finds himself face to face with one of the main problems of modern housing – the problem of space.

Fifty million people live on a slice of land which covers an area of less than a hundred thousand square miles – smaller than New Zealand, where less than two million people live. Eighty per cent of those people have their homes in towns where the demand for space is clamorous. The great task lies, then, in planning the towns and the houses as a whole. This subject is covered in the Festival Exhibition of Architecture at Poplar. Here on the South Bunk, our concern is with some of the units within the house itself; and in this Pavilion a picture is presented of contemporary living created by and for the British family of to-day.

British designers have been concentrating on the many problems created by the conditions in which we have to live nowadays. Of these, six in particular have been selected for new and practical solutions within this section of the Exhibition. Because the rooms of to-day must often serve more than one purpose and because of limits on space, these new proposals for design do not embrace complete rooms. They are, rather, grouped around special features within it – it may be, even, a corner.

Six groups of designers have been chosen to provide new solutions to six problems of design in the modern home:

  1. The child in the home.
  2. The bed-sitting room.
  3. The kitchen.
  4. Hobbies and the home.
  5. Home entertainment.
  6. The parlour.

The child in the home

Designers: Bronek Katz and Reginald Vaughan

The tale begins, of course, with the new-born baby; but at every stage in the child’s development he needs things that have to be designed for him. Thus, his furniture, for example, must, wherever possible, “grow up with him”. When the child goes out of doors, there are certain demands that he is entitled to make of a garden; and also when he goes abroad into the street or into the park.

These are all familiar problems, but there is still much scope for the devising of new solutions to them. The oldest, and still the most important, is the safety of the child. Most nurseries are made safe enough with window bars, fireguards and wicket gates; but where there are children in a house the whole of it should be accident proof. This depends largely on the detail of design of household accessories.

The bed-sitting room

Designer: J. D. Binns

Soon the infant becomes another person in the house. More space is needed, or, if this cannot be found, creative use must be made of the space that exists. This raises the problem of the room that can be made to serve two purposes – the bed-sitting room.

In a house which is built in a crowded city, planted on a teeming island, the space that can be used for twenty-four hours a day is more worth its keep than space than can only be used for eight. Hence, the contemporary role of the bed-sitting room.

The bed-sitting room can be designed to meet the needs of almost anyone who has passed out of childhood. Two boys of school age can share one, or a teen-age girl or a business man or an elderly maiden lady can have one that is specially suitable to their own ways of living – and a garden designed to match.

Here again, the problem is largely solved by the room’s equipment being specially designed for the purpose. Among the new features presented are specially designed beds – divans, for example, that are as successful as sofas during the day as they are as beds at night.

Another new suggestion gets over the bathroom trouble so often experienced in houses made over to bed-sitting rooms. It consists of live units which include all the essentials of a bathroom. They can be assembled in a variety of different ways within the bed-sitting room itself.

The kitchen

Designers: Clive Latimer, Nigel Walter and F. L. Marcus

The second kind of two-purpose room is founded on the kitchen as a place where you can not only store and cook food, but where you can also eat it.

More and more, in the past two decades, the housewife has been finding herself relegated to what, in the days when there were servants galore, used to be called “service quarters”. Designers have therefore been aiming to bring her back where she belongs – into the social life of the house – without interrupting her work in the kitchen. The suggested remedy depends on an easily moveable screen, and folding walls. The cooking department itself is laid out so that anything needed is close at hand. It must, of course, be easily cleaned, but the designer has had to ensure that, at the same time, the effect is pleasant enough for one to be able to sit and eat in the room as well as cook in it.

In conjunction with the kitchen, a two-purpose garden has also been devised, in which herbs that are destined eventually to please the palate are grown in such a way that, meanwhile, they delight the eye.


Hobbies and the home

Designers: Robert and Roger Nicholson

A home always throws some light on its owners character; so do the things that he or she collects, or makes or rears as a hobby. Nearly everyone in Britain has a hobby, but it is not always brought out into the open. This section shows how, if ones hobbies are brought out into the light and their display is linked with the scheme of decoration, a very distinctive flavour can be given to any room in the house. In this way, the hobby itself can be made to live.

Hobbies can be thought of in three groups – rearing animals or plants, collecting, and actively making things. Of the outdoor hobbies, rearing is the most popular: chickens, rabbits, cabbages, hollyhocks – you can see them everywhere in the massed backyards of Britain, which, for better or worse, line the railway approaches to all our cities. How it could be “for better” is shown by the designers’ proposals for transforming these backyards into the sites where pets and domestic animals can be reared, where plants can be collected, and where a garden can be made by hand.

Among the solutions offered for the backyard or small garden are single units that house both rabbits and poultry – a flat, as it were, for each. A new type potting-shed is offered for the gardener who is pushed for space; new thought has been given to the children’s sand pit and the goldfish pond.

The collecting hobbies can contribute to the decoration of most rooms. Their use is shown throughout this section, the widely different effects that can be obtained being illustrated particularly by a countryman’s room, and the room of someone of a more reflective character, in this instance a schoolmaster.

For those whose hobbies consist in making things, there is a model workshop, suggestions for those who make lace and lampshades, and displays for those women whose hobbies and art result in making a home. And that covers most things, from dressmaking to arranging flowers.

Home entertainment

Designer: Robin Day

Entertainment at home may be either of two things – or a combination of both: one can be entertained from outside, as it were, by such devices as the radio, or one can entertain visiting friends.

In the first kind, which can be called passive entertainment, television, wireless, gramophone and the home circle all call for special methods of restricting the spread of light or sound, so that people in the home who would rather not be entertained just at the moment can get on with what they are doing without being distracted. This is a designer’s problem, as is the question of furniture that can house all the apparatus needed for this sort of entertainment in the smallest space and with the maximum convenience.

For entertaining one’s friends, suggestions are offered for a dining-room that may become a room for music when dinner is over.

The parlour

Designers: Eden and Bianca Minns

The “parlour” has long lost its original meaning as a place where people could sit and converse. To-day the very word has a frowsty sound. Yet, quite often, when architects have provided a family with a larger living-room instead of a parlour, one corner has been turned nostalgically into a token parlour-substitute. It is evident, then, that many people still feel the need for a room apart, where photographs and souvenirs can contribute memories, and where the fireplace can be treated as an altar to household gods. So the designers have shown how such a need can be met, in twentieth-century style and without any trace of frowstiness. And they have done so in several different ways, in presenting corners of seven rooms, all with a special character.

The actual homes and gardens of the whole country show more clearly than anything else the way in which a people live. The problems which form the theme of the “Homes and Gardens” Pavilion have therefore been tackled in a realistic manner, and the products which are displayed are essentially those of to-day. Nowhere in this section are there any displays of non-existent “homes of the future”. The years to come will certainly pose their own problems; for the moment, we are content to show how we are trying to solve those that face us here and now.



Architects and Designers: Eric Brown and Peter ChamberlinTheme Convener: A. Hippisley Coxe


Whenever the British feel the need to relax — either after a heavy week in their industrial cities or a hard year on their land — they tend to head for the seaside. Nowhere in the island is more than 80 miles from it. So, too, the visitor who has wound his way round the whole of this Exhibition may himself feel inclined to relax in the Seaside Section.

The seaside that rims the whole of Britain is of three main kinds. There are the small working ports; the large pleasure resorts; and the stretches of undeveloped coast which lie between. These three types of scene offer three different kinds of holiday to an island people who do like to be beside the seaside.

The seaside at work

The fascination of the small working port draws townsmen and countrymen alike. Here, at last, they have time and inclination to stand and stare. At their feet lies a small painted world of tar and limewash, peopled with characters who seem to do their own share of standing and staring, like the old angler who, rain or fine, is always to be seen contemplating the universe from the end of every English pier.


An unfamiliar world that demands not only to be stared at, but to be explored. A world strangely furnished, for purposes that are at first mysterious, with bollards and sea-anchors, nets and capstans, storm-cones and buoys; in fact, with all the gear of those who gain their living on and off the shores of Britain.

A reminder of the fact that such a living is not gained easily is to be found in the presence of the lifeboat, a craft designed with all that modern skill can provide to counter the ancient hazards of the sea. Water-tight engines; a cabin made of aluminium alloy; a mast of the same material which carries the exhaust well clear above the heads of the crew; equipped with searchlight, line-throwing gun, radio telephone and a loud hailer. A lifeboat that cannot be sunk.

The seaside at play

On Margate beach, where the sick one roams And the sentimental reads;
Where the maiden flirts and the widow comes — Like the ocean — to cast her weeds.

Thomas Hood wrote that a hundred years ago; but it is no longer the plain quest for health that, on any public holiday, sends the British people streaming in all directions to the sea. “We do a lot of things at the seaside that we can’t do in town.” And the pleasure resort supplies us with the equipment — the peepshows, the souvenir kiosks, the cockles and whelks, the sand castles and the sticks of rock — with which to do those things.

For a start, every single stick of rock contains an ancient mystery. On the top of each of these pink and white sugar cylinders is inscribed the name of a particular seaside town. You bite the top off the rock; you bite on and on to the sticky end — but at each stage the lettering remains embedded in what is left of the rock. How the letters get inside, and how they go all the way with you, is a question which has puzzled most people since their childhood. The answer can be found in a stall in the Seaside Section where you can see how this miracle is manufactured.

All this bright and breezy business with magic rock and funny hats and period peepshows, is conducted here against the background of a characteristically British “seafront”: a medley of Victorian boarding-houses, elegant bow-fronted Regency facades, ice-cream parlours, pubs, and the full and friendly gaudiness of the amusement park.

The sea coast

It seems a far cry from this free and easy holiday fantasy to the third type of British seaside — the coast that lies between the working ports and the pleasure resorts. The long indented coastline of Britain is rich in contrasting scenery, and it harbours a wonderful variety of plant and animal life. On the South Bank, samples of five stretches of Britain’s coast are made to speak for the whole range of the island. Here the visitor can observe the birds that turn and wheel above our shores, and can see the animals and plants of the rock pools which the ebbing tides reveal.

The seaside, whether it be at a resort, a port, or the open coast, always remains a place for the British to explore. It is also a likely place for the overseas visitor to explore the British. Give the British “a mile of warm sea-scented beach”, and they don’t feel, or seem, so sad and frigid, after all. Rather do they betray a deeply concealed belief in what Robert of Gloucester wrote six hundred years ago:

England is a right merry land, of all on earth it is best,
Y-set in the end of the world, as here all in the West,
The sea goeth it all about, it stands right as an isle.