Skip to main content

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Modern Architectures in History

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Modern Architectures in History

The story of modernism in architecture is international, yet each country adopted the movement in its own unique way, inspired by individual artists and schools and in response to specific social needs and political pressures. Britain explores the British approach to modern architecture, and, with due regard for the separate identities of England, Scotland, and Wales, discusses British modernism from its beginnings to the present day. 

Alan Powers gives equal weight to the technical and aesthetic aspects of modernism, as well as its often controversial reception within Britain and around the world. He examines the works of key British architects and delves into the influence of non-British architects within the United Kingdom. Powers then turns his attention to postmodern architecture as a global movement, looking at contemporary efforts to make architecture sustainable and adaptable to the new challenges of urban life. 

Thoroughly illustrated with images of the buildings under discussion, advertisements, and other historical photographs, Britain is an authoritative, yet highly accessible, account of twentieth-century British architecture.

272 pages | 180 halftones | 6 3/4 x 8 2/3

Modern Architectures in History

Architecture: British Architecture

Reaktion Books image

View all books from Reaktion Books


"Discarding all the tired narratives of Britain’s insular modernism as a faint echo of continental stylistic and technical bravura, Alan Powers gives us an erudite, spirited, sometimes irreverent – and ultimately sensitive – assessment of British architectural invention from the decline of Empire to the rise of Devolution. Architectural practice itself, and the changing economic and political policies that inflected its trajectories, are given prominence in dialogue with stylistic and intellectual trends. There is a lasting freshness to this account, and an ecumenical embrace of variety, that will make this lively text a standard for years to come."

Barry Bergdoll, Chief Curator of Architecture & Design, Museum of Modern Art, and professor of Architectural History, Columbia University

"Powers romps through the history of British modernism and its precursors with intelligence, flair, and humour."

RIBA Journal

"With more than 220 recent and historical photographs, this is an authoritative yet highly accessible account of 20th century British architecture, and adds a new and original dimension to the problem of defining ’Britain’ in the modern world."

Church Building

"Sparkling first of a series about modern architectures. . . . Half apostate himself, he simply opens up British modernism to the opposition. By so doing he makes it more inculsive humane, and amusing. . . . His open-mindedness is always refreshing, extending to an outspoken advocacy of sneered-at Milton Keynes. . . . Not that intellectual input is wanting, for Powers enjoys and is patient with architectural ideas. . . . The story Powers tells is more honest, more complex, less dogmatic, and less moralizing. Without ever quite losing his thread, he contrives to persuade the reader that Britain really contributed something unique to modern architecture."

Andrew Saint | Times Literary Supplement

"He remains, throughout his text, unaligned, presenting his empirical data as a historian and critic with an objectivity and detachment that is admirable."

Neil Jackson | Times Higher Education Supplement

Table of Contents


1. Efficiency: From Modernity to Modernism
2. Compassion: Modern Architecture Builds the ’Just City’
3. Poetics: The Moral Dilemma of Modern Aesthetics
4. Production: White Heat and Burnout
5. Happiness: The Reintegration of Architecture
6. Conscience: The Architecture of Fruitful Anxiety
7. Difference: Local Action and Global Thought

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press