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Designing Britain 1945 - 1975 > Art for Social Spaces

Welcome to Art for Social Spaces : Public Sculpture and Urban Regeneration in Post-war Britain (ASS). This module will examine the nature and role of artworks sited in the public domain in the immediate post-war years. There will be a particular focus on sculpture up to the early 1970s, although links will be made to more recent and contemporary projects and schemes.

The module is intended to serve as an optional course for postgraduates on a taught MA programme. It has been designed for students undertaking an MA in Sculpture Studies, Public Art, Art History or Material Culture. However, more generally it would be of interest to students of various aspects of the history, theory or practice of architecture, urban studies and the built environment.

Whilst it assumes that students will have a developed understanding of the basic concepts and current issues and debates within the contemporary field of art history, the individual case studies bring together visual material, documentary and bibliographic information and references that could be utilised by teachers and learners within higher, further or secondary education.

The module’s Image Archive brings together visual data from a variety of sources, much of which was previously unpublished and difficult to access. It offers a valuable resource to individual scholars following research or writing projects related to sculpture, social architecture or the urban environment.


The primary aims of the module are :

- to interrogate the concept of ‘public’
- to interrogate the notion of ‘urban regeneration’
- to examine the forms that sculpture took in the period
- to examine a selection of sites/spaces for sculptural work
- to explore the social, political and cultural contexts for sculpture
- to examine the relationship between public artworks and urban regeneration

Learning Outcomes

After working through the material in this module, you should have developed :

- an understanding of some of the key issues and debates surrounding the production, location and reception of public sculpture
- an increased knowledge of the forms, materials and techniques of sculpture
- an understanding of a variety of contexts, locations and settings for public work
- a range of perspectives on the economic and ‘regenerative’ role of cultural objects, such as public sculpture, within broader society

Structure of module

The module does not offer an historical account or a chronological narrative of public art or sculpture in the period. Instead, it focuses on 4 case studies: Festival of Britain, Housing/Harlow, Schools, Precincts/Parks.

The module has 4 main themes : Contexts, Regeneration, Language, Spaces. The analysis and discussion in these sections informs and underpins the more detailed material and closer focus of the six case studies.

Working through the module

Note for Tutors/Teachers

The module is designed to form part of a taught programme of study over a 10 or 11 week term. A series of seminar discussions should support the module material and focus on recommended reading. Extension research might utilise other online material and image banks alongside more conventional learning resource centres. Online learning material should not be a substitute for active participatory learning experiences. It is envisaged that this module will engender critical engagements, scholarly research and extend a more general interest in the place of sculpture in the built environment. To this end, the module should also be supported by study visits to archives and also to the actual locations of public sculpture to both handle and see work at close hand and to address the various perspectives not covered in this module.

Note for students

Ideally, you should work through the four themes first to gain an understanding of the key issues at stake in the studying of public sculpture in the period. Subsequently, you should then work through all the case studies - in any order - utilising the Image Archive, Resources and Assignments sections.

However, the module is structured for maximum flexibility and can be adapted to individual learning/research needs. Themes or case studies can be used as springboards. For example, if you were particularly interested in concentrating on one aspect of sculpture, you could select a particular theme and explore it in the four case studies and beyond into related areas not covered in this module. In other cases, an individual might be only interested in sculpture sited on or in schools and might therefore want to independently access all references to schools within the module.


This module has been created with the generous assistance of the following :

Graham Portlock
Harlow Art Trust
Public Monuments and Sculpture Association
Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
Leeds City Galleries
Conway Library, Courtauld Institute