The Cambridge Experiment
Since the latter part of 19th century photography has played a central role in the development of architecture for its persuasive visual impact. But, despite this clear interaction, there is still reluctance from scholars in accepting less rigid approaches to the two disciplines. Indeed, the combination of the subjects, with the necessary rigour, can open up new and effective horizons for architectural history, with a potential influence on the perceived reality: this could gradually establish attention towards less known heritage. In the case we present here, by means of a provocative exhibition on Cambridge’s buildings after the Second World War, we have used photography to re-evaluate modern architecture. Cambridge in Concrete. Images from the RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection, was held on the occasion of the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture’s Centenary (1912-2012). The cues for our task were contained in the collections of the Royal Institute of British Architects: the photographic archive is the world’s biggest holding of architectural images which, since 2012, has been renamed in honour of Robert Elwall (1953-2012), first curator of the collection. As part of the exhibition we published a limited edition catalogue; we have here revisited, combined and enlarged our original essays.
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