Flat design from the 1950s vs flat design today

Posted on 20 November 2011 0 comments

Over the past few weeks I’ve been posting examples of 1950s flat designs from:

The layouts from the 1950s flats are much more appealing than the flat layouts of today. Why has flat design regressed in comparison to the 1950s examples I’ve posted?

It might seem unfair to compare flat designs from the 1950s with flat design in Britain today. After all, circumstances were very different then. The need to build new homes after the war led to a boom in housing construction from the 1950s onwards. Many housing developments were built with government subsidy. For architects, there was also an opportunity to try new forms or ideas in housing, particularly with high-density blocks of flats. Not all of these would prove successful over time.

All the 1950s examples I published are from a 1958 book called Modern Flats and I have posted only a small selection. But if I were to compile a book of modern flat design in Britain today, I would struggle to fill it with examples. Why? Because there is barely any variation in the layout of one, two and three-bedroom flats in new-build housing today. The variation lies mostly in the exterior appearance of each development. In contrast, many 1950s developments have a rather drab exterior but much better interior flat layouts. I certainly don’t mean to minimise the importance of exterior detail and the design of communal and circulation spaces, but surely the design of the flat deserves at least equal if not greater consideration? It hardly seems that way though.

A depressing aspect about new build flat design today is that architect-led schemes rarely deviate from the standard floor plans produced by the volume house builders. But why is this? What are the constraints that prevent them from doing so?

Am I being unfair? Here’s a comparison of some of the two-bed 1950s flats with two-bed flats today. Are the more recent flats equal to or better than the 1950s examples? Click the image for a larger view.

1950s flats vs flats today
1950s flats vs flats today. Click for larger view.

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