Front Cover of Manplan 1: Frustration

MANPLAN 1: FRUSTRATION

Looking forward to the new decade ahead in the autumn of 1969 The Architectural Review (AR) paused to examine and evaluate state of the nation through its architecture and planning. This was by way of the publication of ‘Manplan’, a number of special editions of the AR focusing on topics ranging from housing to religion and how well these functioned within society. Manplan was not only a radical, sometimes brutal assessment of the built environment of the day, but today forms a poignant reminder of British life at the end of the sixties. Its stated intention was to take “as its yardstick real needs rather than minimum standards. Hence the title MANPLAN. A plan for human beings with a destiny rather than figures in a table of statistics.” (The Architectural Review, September 1969)

Manplan 1 set the tone for the series whereby Patrick Ward photographed and recorded one month of British frustration, that of congestion, queues, poverty, boredom, protests, inadequate buildings and damage to both the built and natural landscape. Subsequent editions intended to propose solutions to issues such as: what responsibility have architects for the environmental crisis? Is modern life isolating us? How do we prepare for the huge increase in the elderly? Is current housing policy sound? Is technology good or bad for us or even turning us into robots? What impact does the paralysis of decision making, particularly by government, have? Hence the first edition’s title ‘Frustration’ reflecting the AR’s conclusion that, “the picture that emerges covers the whole spectrum of despair from inconvenience through exasperation to tragedy and, of course, farce.” (The Architectural Review, September 1969)

Manplan was a departure from AR’s norm, not least the use of grainy reportage photography shot on 35mm cameras by leading photojournalists commissioned by the AR. The design was characterised by the use of full-page images, multi-page spreads, guest editors, bold titles, Rockwell typeface forming a ribbon of text from page to page and by being printed using a matt black ink. In particular for Manplan 1 Ward’s photographs were punctuated by black pages framing only the smallest of images.

Although the AR had long championed better town planning through the ‘Townscape’ campaign or highlighted blights on the landscape in ‘Outrage’, Manplan’s brave assessment was nevertheless a shock and a critical broadside on the architectural profession, some of whom protested by cancelling their subscription. Striking both by its design and by its depictions of buildings being populated and used by people, Manplan was to a degree controversial yet highlighted and explored many issues which remain acutely pertinent today.

The first edition, Manplan 1, was published in September 1969 with the series ending a year later with Manplan 8. The intended Manplan 9 focusing on Leisure was never published, however the RIBA holds some of the photographer Patrick Ward’s contact sheets. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Manplan between now and September 2020 RIBApix will present galleries of images to coincide with the publication of each issue, all of which are available to download, purchase or license.

Also see: Manplan 2: Society and its Contacts

 

Manplan 1: Frustration

Publication date: September 1969

Series editor: Tom Rock

Guest photographer: Patrick Ward

 

Article by Jonathan Makepeace

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