Prof Mark Swenarton BA, MA, PhD, FRHistS, FRSA, HonFRIBA

Emeritus Professor of Architecture Architecture


The architecture of housing

My research interests as a historian centre on the architecture of housing in the twentieth century, and particularly on the relationship between architecture

My research interests as a historian centre on the architecture of housing in the twentieth century, and particularly on the relationship between architecture, housing and politics. Over many years my work focused on the development of a new form of urban housing, namely the garden suburb, in the early twentieth century and its adoption by social democratic governments across Europe, led by the UK, for the social housing programmes launched in the aftermath of the First World War.

These events have attracted nationwide attention in 2018-19 as marking the beginning of '100 Years of Council Housing', with events including the Homes fit for Heroes Centenary Conference (London, July 2019) on which I was a lead organiser.

Sole-authored outputs from this include Homes fit for Heroes (1981; new edition 2018), Artisans and Architects (1989) and Building the New Jerusalem (2008).

In the past decade I have been looking at the emergence of another new type of urban housing, the high-density low-rise type of street-based housing developed by architects at the London Borough of Camden in the 1960s and 1970s, most famously Neave Brown's Alexandra Road, and this forms the subject of my current research, published in 2017 by Lund Humphries as Cook's Camden: The Making of Modern Housing. Funding for this came from the RIBA, the British Academy (Thank-Offering to Britain Fellowship), Leverhulme Trust (Emeritus Fellowship) and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies of British Art.

This research has led to a re-evaluation of the work of Neave Brown (1929-2017), including the completion of the listing of all his UK projects; the award of the 2018 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, for which I wrote the principal citation; and the establishment in 2019 of the annual RIBA Neave Brown Award for Housing.

Alongside this close-up study I have been involved in establishing a network of European and American scholars researching the relationship between architecture and the welfare state on an international basis. Milestones include sessions at the conferences of the European Architectural History Network (EAHN) in 2010 and 2012 and an invitation-only international symposium in Liverpool in 2012, leading to the book Architecture and the Welfare State (Routledge, 2015),which I co-edited with Tom Avermaete and Dirk van den Heuvel from TU Delft.

Research Grants

The housing programme of the London Borough of Camden under Sydney Cook 1965-73


January 2014 - December 2014

Research Collaborations

Prof Tom Avermaete, Dr Dirk van den Heuvel

Project: Architecture and the Welfare State
External: Technische Universiteit Delft, The Netherlands

Organisation of invited international symposium 2012, formation of international network, publication of co-edited book 2014