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Csepely-Knorr, L., 2018.

Mawson's 'Volksparks'?

Output Type:Conference paper
Presented at:SAHGB 2018 Annual Symposium Architecture, the Built Environment, and the Aftermath of the First World War
Venue:Institute of Historical Research, London
Dates:8/6/2018 - 9/6/2018

One of the most important changes in landscape architectural theory during the decades after the Great War was a new, social movement, "when the requirements of the lower classes became the aims and objectives of planning". This aim resulted in large scale public parks, where the 'use value' became the most important planning principle, for which they were often regarded as 'recreational machines' parallel to Corbusier's 'housing-machine'.

The coastal town of Blackpool, in an attempt to attract visitors back to the seaside after the War, commissioned the well-known landscape designer and town planner Thomas Hayton Mawson in 1922 to create a plan for a large-scale public park. Mawson was one of the most successful and internationally renowned landscape designers of the Edwardian period, with projects in as far as Canada and Greece, ranging in scale from country house gardens to entire town plans. However, his career had a significant shift after WWI. With commissions for country house gardens declining and international commissions being lost due to the political and financial circumstances after the War, Mawson's attention turned to the regeneration and redevelopment of British towns. Public parks, such as his Stanley Park in Blackpool or Shadwell Park in Stepney were key development drivers in these plans.

In the 1980s, however, renowned architect Geoffrey Jellicoe wrote that "The name of Thomas Mawson stood for everything we students were in rebellion about. He was in antithesis to the new worlds of Picasso and Corbusier which had long dawned in Europe, but had been held back in England by academics". This paper aims to evaluate Mawson's post-WWI plans in the international context of evolving public park theories, with the intention to reconsider Jellicoe's harsh critique of his plans and theories.