The Promised Land

A survey of domestic architecture in Britain since the 1930s, shaped by turbulent times and interpreted by our filmmakers.

The shadow of urban neglect cast by the Industrial Revolution, the havoc wreaked by the Second World War, and a booming post-war population caused great upheaval in the way many 20th century Britons were housed. Our architects had to come up with fast, and often radical, solutions.

Titles in The Promised Land chart the responses of architects, town planners – and filmmakers – to the challenges posed by the nation’s housing crises, guiding viewers through the idealistic ’30s to the era of the new towns and beyond. On the way the collection reflects design vogues as diverse as Art Deco and Brutalism, and poses the question: can such a thing as a ‘model community’ exist in Britain?

Ten to try

An Ultra-Modern House (1931)

The ultimate in streamlined chic – on a hillside above Amersham.

Things to Come (1936)

A gleaming ‘Everytown’ emerges from the rubble of total war.

The Ten Year Plan (1945)

Charles Hawtrey on the utilitarian wonder of the ‘prefab’.

The Way We Live (1946)

Innovative docu-drama on the post-war expansion of Plymouth.

Charley in New Town (1948)

Suburban utopia explained in this animated guide for townies.

Architecture or Revolution (1966)

Televised student debate on the future of architecture.

Living at Thamesmead (1974)

Fly-on-the-wall look at the South-East London estate.

England Home and Beauty (1976)

Whimsical evocation of our 1930s design heyday.

Arena: Berthold Lubetkin (1984)

Profile of the pioneering émigré architect.

Building Sights: Trellick Tower (1991)

The controversial legacy of modernism.

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