New Architecture Movement

Group – UK

1975 – 1980

The New Architecture Movement (NAM) was founded in 1975 and arose out of a conference organised by the more tightly knit ARC. NAM also took an explicitly oppositional stance to normative architectural practice: it set out to criticise the conventional notions of professionalism and the internalised structure of the profession, and in particular the system of patronage where the designer of a building has little contact with its user. NAM also called for the unionisation of architects, claiming that the RIBA failed to represent the majority of architects working within the private sector, dominated as it was (and still is) by private practice principals rather than their employees.

Much of this discussion was presented in SLATE, the newsletter of the NAM, published between 1976 and 1980, which ran articles on local authority housing, education, women in construction, the Schools of Architecture Council, and features on 'What It Means to Architecture'. SLATE argued that architecture could not be separated from its political implications and social obligations, and that architecture as promulgated by the RIBA, had become an apologia for architects that was not accountable to the people who have to live in and with the architects' work.

SLATE ceased publication in 1980 and NAM moved into different existences, including 'Women in Construction', one of the working groups within NAM, which was the starting point for Matrix, one of the first explicitly feminist architecture practices in the UK. However, by the mid 1980s most of the initial energy of these groups had been dissipated, overwhelmed, one suspects, by the ascendant values of the Thatcherite era. NAM's unapologetic critique of professional norms and the political structures that shape those norms is as relevant now as it was then, and SLATE, by turns acerbic, aggressive, witty and serious, remains an inspirational source.

Other Work

NAM, Slate: the newsletter of NAM (London: NAM, 1976-1980).

---, Working for What? The case for trade union organisation in architecture and the allied building professions: a NAM report (London: New Architecture Movement, 1977).

---, Do not pass go ... do not collect 6%. An end to architects' monopoly: the case against mandatory minimum fees : report of the New Architecture Movement to the Monopolies Commission (London: New Architecture Movement, 1977)

References About

'New Architecture Movement working to redistribute power in architecture', Architects Journal, 163 (1976): 1067.

'Single union' for building professions. Move by New Architecture Movement to set up a unified trade union organisation', Building Design, (1977): 3.

Anne Karpf, 'The Pressure Groups', Architects Journal, 166 (1977): 729.

'Call for local design teams: local authority departments should be radically restructured to provide a more effective Public Design Service, says New Architecture Movement conference', Architects Journal, 167 (1978): 893.

'NAM landslide in ARCUK', Architects Journal, 167 (1978): 334.

Quotes

"A radical redistribution of economic and political power in society cannot guarantee building quality but it may well prove to be a precondition for any improvement."

- NAM, Slate, 14, (1979): 3

"NAM has established itself as a mouthpiece for a significant section of architectural workers and is taking a major part in the debate about the role of the architect. It has not yet become a mass movement, but membership is increasing."
- NAM member Douglas Smith quoted in, Anne Karpf, 'The Pressure Groups', Architects Journal, 166 (1977): 729.

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