Ms Rosamund Lily West

Research project: The ‘concrete citizens' of the London County Council's housing schemes, 1943 to 1965.

Abstract

In the 1943 ‘County of London Plan', both its authors and the London County Council (LCC) set out the re-planning of London. It aimed to solve the defects of modern London through planning, paying close attention to existing neighbourhoods and communities. The LCC used human-figurative sculptures, ‘concrete citizens' as communication tool for the post-war re-planning of London and its communities. These sculptures were part of the LCC's wider visual communication strategy that included publications, exhibitions and films, designed to persuade and inform Londoners of the replanning of London and the rehousing of Londoners.

Informed by Frank Mort's analysis of the visual imagery, ‘cultural visions', used in the planning of London to project a fantasy of London's future that represented both policy and an imagined urban landscape, my research positions these artworks in the context of wartime and post-war planning for London, concentrating on the LCC's housing of communities, and how these sculptures were designed to speak to the communities they were designed to represent. I investigate the artworks in their physical and intellectual context, to reveal the LCC's wider intent for the post-war housing of Londoners, and how the LCC made moral and ethical decisions on the future of London, made flesh by human-figurative sculptures.

My research builds on scholarship on the LCC's ‘patronage of the arts' scheme and wider post-war state patronage of the arts, as well as scholarship on the LCC's architecture and replanning of London, to place these artworks in the context of the housing schemes they sit within by analysing their placement on housing estates to denote meaning both in the works and their placement. The thesis contains six case studies consisting of eight artworks, three Peter Laszlo Peri reliefs, ‘Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz)', ‘Boys Playing Football' and ‘Mother and Children Playing', (installed between 1949 and 1952 on the South Lambeth estate and Vauxhall Gardens estate); Franta Belsky's, ‘The Lesson', installed on the Avebury estate in 1959; Siegfreid Charoux's, ‘The Neighbours', installed on the Highbury Quadrant estate in 1959; Elisabeth Frink's, ‘Blind Beggar and his Dog', installed on the Cranbrook estate in 1959; Sydney Harpley's, ‘The Dockers', installed on the Lansbury estate in 1962 and Uli Nimptsch's, ‘Neighbourly Encounter', installed on the Silwood estate in 1964.

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: The ‘concrete citizens' of the London County Council's housing schemes, 1943 to 1965.
  • Research supervisor: Dr Alexandra Stara
  • Other research supervisor: Professor Fran Lloyd

Biography

I have worked in the museum sector since 2007 and currently hold two curatorial positions. I work as Documentary Curator at London Transport Museum, a role which involves documenting contemporary London, as well as Curator at Kingston Museum. Prior to this, I was the Paul Mellon Research Curator at the Royal Society of Sculptors. I am interested in public and community engagement with heritage and the built environment and have created podcasts based on my PhD research for Placecloud. I have also researched, written and led architectural tours for the V&A, London Festival of Architecture and The Architecture Foundation.

I am a Trustee for the charity Art History Link Up and have acted as a mentor for the charity Arts Emergency. In 2020, I was elected an Early Career Member of the Royal Historical Society. 

I welcome further opportunities to utilise my research for public and community engagement.

Areas of research interest

  • London County Council
  • Post-war planning and reconstruction
  • Post-war housing
  • History of London
  • Community history
  • Display and exhibition of art in post-war Britain

Qualifications

  • MA History of Art, University of York (2010)
  • BA (Hons) History of Art, University of York (2007)

Funding or awards received

  • KSA Faculty Funded PhD (2015–completion)
  • KSA Faculty Research, Event and Conference Fund (2016, 2017)

Publications

‘Each For All And All For Each – the buildings of the Royal Arsenal Co-Operative Society', in Hatherley, O (ed). The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs, (London: Open House Publishing) 2020

‘I Am Convinced I Shall Achieve Something Valuable If I Can Brighten the Lives of the People Here': Bombsites, Housing and Art in Lambeth'. The London Journal, DOI: 10.1080/03058034.2019.1706952

‘The ‘Pioneering Women' in the archive of the Royal Society of Sculptors', ALISS quarterly, vol. 15, no.1, October 2019, p.18-20

‘Pioneering Women', PMC notes, no. 13, October 2019, p.11-13

‘Have you met the Neighbours?'. Modernist magazine, Inventory, issue 29, Winter 2018. December 2018

'Out of the slums', Architecture Today, June 2018 

Conference papers

‘"Every sculptor of any standing", Pioneering Women at the Royal Society of Sculptors', Art UK symposium, ‘Rediscovering our Sculpture', online, March 2021

Conference organiser, 'Pioneering Women' conference, Royal Society of Sculptors, online, March 2021.

‘"By the way, ‘he' is ‘she'": Eva Dorothy/Julian Phelps Allan FRBS', ‘Radical Women' symposium, Pallant House Gallery, February 2020

 ‘Pioneering Women at the heart of the Royal Society of Sculptors', Women's History Network conference, LSE library, September 2019.

‘"Rats or rents": the London County Council's Silwood estate, Rotherhithe', Sir John Soane Museum, London, February 2019

'"The plan might look well on paper but it would not be London", the County of London Plan's impact on the housing of communities', County of London Plan symposium, London Metropolitan Archives, October 2018

'"I am convinced I shall achieve something valuable if I can brighten the lives of the people here", bombsites, housing and art on the South Lambeth estate', The City (Re)shaped conference, University of Leeds, September 2018

'Reconstruction and memorial: London County Council housing estates and artwork', Bombsite/Building site: Post Destruction Urban Cultures symposium, London South Bank University, May 2018

'Replanning communities through architecture and art: the post-war London County Council', Architecture, Citizenship, Space conference, Oxford Brookes, June 2017

'The London County Council's post-war housing schemes containing sculptural depictions of citizens, 1943-65', Social History Society conference, UCL, April 2017