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Smithson, Alison Margaret, 1928-1993; and Smithson, Peter, 1923-2003. The Alison and Peter Smithson Archive: An Inventory.


Special Collections, Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

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© 2005 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Special Collections, Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.
Title: Smithson, Alison Margaret, 1928-1993; and Smithson, Peter, 1923-2003. The Alison and Peter Smithson Archive: An Inventory.
Creator: Smithson, Alison Margaret, 1928-1993; Smithson, Peter, 1923-2003.
Quantity: ca. 60 linear feet
Abstract: Project files, architectural drawings, sketches, photographs aperture cards, clippings, correspondence, published and unpublished texts drawn from the professional files of architects Alison and Peter Smithson.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Inés Zalduendo

Acquisition Information:

Gift of Smithson Family, 2003.

Conditions on Use and Access:

Contact Special Collection Department, Frances Loeb Library, Harvard Design School.

Biography

Alison Margaret Smithson (1928-1993), and Peter Denham Smithson (1923-2003) were among the most influential British architects of the latter half of the 20th century. They developed an eloquent and rigorous approach to architecture and urbanism, expressed in both practice and writing. Born in Stockton-on-Tees, Peter Smithson met Alison Gill, born in Sheffield, when both were students at the School of Architecture in Newcastle, Durham University. They married in 1949 and soon after won the competition to design the Hunstanton Secondary Modern School in Norfolk (1949-54). They set up a practice together that was to be one of the most remarkable British architectural partnerships, notable for such landmarks as The Economist Building (1959-64) in St. James's Street in London, and Robin Hood Gardens (1966-72), a housing complex in east London; and for such visionary projects as the 1956 House of the Future. Later works and projects include the plans for the new Coventry Cathedral (1950-51), the British Embassy in Brasilia (unbuilt, 1964-68), St. Hilda's College (1967-70), the Yellow House at an Intersection (unbuilt, 1976), several buildings for the University of Bath (1978-88), and the Lutzowstrasse Housing in Berlin (unbuilt, 1980). The Smithsons were best known as exponents of New Brutalism, a term coined by Alison Smithson and later popularized by architecture critic Reyner Banham, and as members of the CIAM splinter group Team 10, and for their influential writings. Among their published titles are: Alison and Peter Smithson, The Charged Void: Urbanism (2005), The Charged Void: Architecture (2001), Changing the Art of Inhabitation (1994), The Emergence of Team 10 out of CIAM: Documents (1982), Team 10 Meetings (1991), The Shift (1983), Without Rhetoric: an Architectural Aesthetic, 1955-1972 (1973), Team 10 Primer (1975), and Ordinariness and Light (1970). Alison Smithson was also the author of a novel, A Portrait of the Female Mind as a Young Girl (1966).
As younger members of CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) and, by 1956, as founding members of Team 10, they were at the heart of the debate on the future course of modern architecture, demonstrating a broad concern in the social environment and advocating for buildings that were specific to their location and purpose. Rather than the CIAM understanding that cities should be zoned into specific areas for living, working, leisure, and transport, the Smithsons argued in favor of mixed use within the same area. They conceived mid-rise housing as 'streets in the air' to encourage sentiments of belonging and neighborliness, rather than isolated slab-like towers. They believed these goals could be achieved at differing levels of human association: house, street, district and city. The Smithsons were central figures not only in avant-garde architectural circles, but in the broader cultural scene of London in the 1950s as members of the Independent Group, credited for having laid the foundations for the 1960s Pop Art movement, comprised among others by artists Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton, the critic Reyner Banham and the photographer Nigel Henderson.

Scope and Content

The Alison and Peter Smithson Archive is comprised of material assembled and maintained by Alison and Peter Smithson, and documents more than fifty years of practice through their architectural work and writings. Projects, both built and unbuilt, are represented with drawings, sketches, photographs, clippings, and correspondence. Essays include both published and unpublished texts. The collection also includes a selection of printed works by and about the Smithsons.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into seven series according to the following structure: Series A (Project Files: Architectural Drawings); Series B (Project Files: Written Materials - Sketches - Photographs); Series C (Reports & Photograph Albums); Series D (Microfiche & Computer Disks); Series E (Published Works and Essays); Series F (Unpublished Works and Essays); Series G (Press References, Lecture Posters and Clippings); Series H (Diaries); and Series J (Printed Works).

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