'Everything is Made of Atoms': The reprogramming of space and time in post-war London
Hornsey, R. (2007) 'Everything is Made of Atoms': The reprogramming of space and time in post-war London. Journal of Historical Geography, 33 (1). pp. 94-117. ISSN 0305-7488
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhg.2006.12.003
From the middle of the Second World War until the early-1950s, architects, planners and designers in Britain made an unprecedented investment in reforming the built environment as a means to ensure a stable and secure post-war society. This essay reconsiders the importance of movement, trajectory and repetition within this reconstruction vision and how the organisation of these things provided a basis for imagining a new form of consensual urban community. The essay begins by exploring how the 'County of London Plan' (Abercrombie and Forshaw, 1943) and the 'Greater London Plan' (Abercrombie, 1945) articulated a set of spatio-temporal logics, based on the prescribed trajectory of the individual and embedded within a programme of quotidian repetitions. These logics suggested that urban space could be built to foreclose the possibility of historical conflict. The essay then explores the material design of two post-war exhibitions, Britain Can Make It (1946) and the Festival of Britain’s South Bank Exhibition (1951), which offered visitors an experiential taster of what these new urban choreographies would feel like. To end, the essay explores the recurrent figure of the atom within post-war public pedagogy. Within this briefly ubiquitous mechanistic image could be found an unacknowledged assurance about how hierarchical structures of movement and repetition sustained the material world, just as these things were being invoked to secure London’s position, across a range of scales from the local urban neighbourhood to the post-war Commonwealth.