Forty years on: The past and future of design history

Chris Breward, Pat Kirkham, Catherine Whalen, and Jonathan Woodham speaking at the Open University in Milton Keynes. View on Open Arts Archive website

In May I was honoured to be asked to present at the conference ’40 Years On: The Domain of Design History’ at the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes. The conference celebrated the launch of the pioneering OU programme “History of Architecture and Design 1890-1939”, an authoritative introduction to Modernism presented by Professor Tim Benton.

It was one of the first university courses to subject design and architecture to academic scrutiny in a context that went beyond the art historical. It was also echoed by similar initiatives in art schools around the UK, particularly Middlesex, Brighton, Manchester, Newcastle and the Royal College.

My polemic considered the continuing place of design historical work in our much-altered scholarly environment, and it generated some lively debate!