The London Coffee Bar of the 1950s - teenage occupation of an amateur space?
Partington, M. (2009) The London Coffee Bar of the 1950s - teenage occupation of an amateur space? In: Occupation: Negotiations with Constructed Space (Interior Architecture Conference), University of Brighton, Grand Parade, Brighton, July 2-3 2009.
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London coffee bars of the 1950s quickly became recognized social spaces described in books, magazines and films of the period. This paper critiques the received view of a homogeneous, generic coffee bar ‘type’. By contrast, this paper emphasizes coffee bars’ heterogeneity both in terms of their design but more significantly in the range of their clientele and designers. The somewhat negative attitude of the architectural establishment towards coffee bars and the degree to which their success was partly due to the disinclination of architects to work on them and their subsequent design by amateurs is discussed in detail. This paper demonstrates the extent to which interior design of the period was seen as of secondary importance to the serious business of the architectural façade of a building. This paper demonstrates that coffee bars were significantly more diverse than current writing allows and will argue that they were spaces occupied by different social and age groups in different ways at different times of the day and night as well as at different points during the 1950s.