Click here to send us material for publication

James Woudhuysen writesIan Abley writesMartin Pawley writesJames Heartfield writesMiffa Salter writesRichard McWilliams writes

ActivityServicesBooksShopLinksContact


email audacity.org

Return to Welcome









































































































Click here for Sustaining Architecture in the Anti-Machine Age, edited by Ian Abley and James Heartfield

Return to the front page of the website index for Why is construction so backward? by James Woudhuysen

Click here to buy Why is construction so backward?

Why is construction so backward? - Leicester launch 9 March 2004

We are pleased that the book is launched at the University of Leicester Engineering Building, designed by architects Sir James Stirling and James Gowan, and completed 1963.

Why is construction so backward? James Woudhuysen, Ian Abley, Stefan Muthesius and Miles Glendinning

We wanted a launch event in Leicester because James Woudhuysen is Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montfort University. We decided to have the launch outside of De Montfort University and in the University of Leicester Engineering Building, designed by architects Sir James Stirling and James Gowan, because it features as a positive example of limited progress in Why is construction so backward?

The much admired building, designated a Class II* Listed Building in 1993, was designed and constructed between 1959 and 1963.

Click here to visit Whitby Bird EngineersWe are grateful to the two Universities for their support, and to Whitby Bird Engineers for sponsoring the refreshments.

The public launch of Why is construction so backward? on Tuesday 9 March 2004, between 6.00pm and 9.00 pm, at the University of Leicester Engineering Building, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH (see map below) is free of charge for those who register.

Please register in advance by emailing Ian Abley with your name and address, as this helps us cater for attendance.

For those who have a special interest in the Engineering Building, a popular guided tour starts at 4.00 pm, but by ticket only. Again, please book a place on the tour by emailing Ian Abley and by sending a cheque for £25.00 made payable to Audacity Limited to 8 College Close, Hackney, London, E9 6ER. You can also pay on the day.

Refreshments are provided, and we are pleased to announce that the speakers at the launch are:

Click here for more about John McKean John McKean

John McKean, Professor of Architecture at the University of Brighton, will show that architectural theory was not always as pallid and relativistic as it is today. He will discuss the controversy around the Stirling and Gowan Engineering Building in the early 1960s at the moment that Modernism gave way to Post-Modernism.

Click here for more about Stephen Games Stephen Games

Stephen Games, architectural journalist and editor of Pevsner on Art and Architecture - The Radio Talks (Methuen, 2002), will talk about Nikolaus Pevsner, Peter Reyner Banham, and the collapse of the modernist proposition that 'form follows function' into contemporary expressionism.

Click here for more about Vicky Richardson Vicky Richardson

Vicky Richardson, Practice editor of the RIBA Journal and writer, will explore how the practice of architecture has shifted from a time when leading architects and their supporters were intent on winning a battle of ideas over architectural theory, to our time, where architects offer themselves as stylistic brands.

Click here for more about James Woudhuysen James Woudhuysen

James Woudhuysen, Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montfort University, and principal author of Why is construction so backward? will consider the future for construction. He will suggest how the development sector might progress beyond present day risk aversion, as reflected in the managerial, naturalistic and therapeutic perspectives of the construction industry.

Ian Abley, a practicing architect and co-author of Why is construction so backward? commented:

"The book launch presents a wonderful occasion for people interested in architecture, engineering, IT and the wider construction industry - from the DIY enthusiast to the professional - to consider the question that nags all of us on a daily basis: Why is construction so backward?"

"We wanted to launch the book in one of the finest buildings of its period, and of world reputation - The University of Leicester Engineering Building. We are doubly pleased at audacity.org that the guest speakers were keen to discuss the book and their insights on the question that James Woudhuysen so forcefully answers in Why is construction so backward?."

The University of Leicester Engineering Building

The Leicester Engineering Building stands as an example of how construction is yet to progress from a site based craft into system building from stock products. The valley-guttered glass roof of the Crystal Palace was one of the inspirations for James Sterling and James Gowan's influential Engineering Building at the University of Leicester, completed in 1963. But the Leicester Engineering Building also highlights an important distinction to make about the phrase 'mass produced' - or a distinction between two types of prefabricated components:

  • Production to order, where components are prefabricated for a particular building design and never repeated.
  • Production to stock, where components are prefabricated without prior knowledge of the design or type of building in which they are to be used.

The Crystal Palace represented production-to-order. In most regards, the Engineering Building was not prefabricated at all, but site-built. Yet in its use of patent glazing, the Engineering Building was also an example of production-to-stock, albeit that the stock extrusions had to be worked up on site, making the sizes of the glass panels tend to vary as a consequence. Nevertheless, it was the ability of the product manufacturers to produce their sub-system in bulk for stock that made it both innovative and an economy.

The Engineering Building also stands as an example of how, more than ever in this age of Computer Aided Design (CAD), productive innovation in construction depends on the disciplined imaginations of architects and engineers - and the courage of their clients.

The Engineering Building was a triumph of hand-calculated engineering by F J Samuely and Partners. The firm's origins date back to 1933, when Felix Samuely came to Britain and worked on a number of well known and innovative structures, including the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill, Simpsons Piccadilly (now Waterstones) and the Skylon for the Festival of Britain. F J Samuely and Partners was formed in 1956 and Frank Newby became senior partner in 1959 when Felix Samuely died prematurely. Newby presided over the Engineering Building. Further details are at www.samuely.demon.co.uk.

For further details on the launch please contact Ian Abley by telephone on 07947 621 790, or by emailing abley@audacity.org.

For further details on the Engineering Building please contact Jim Wait, Estates Office, University of Leicester, by telephone on 0116 252 2541, or by emailing jhw8@le.ac.uk

To buy this book Shop

Location of the University of Leicester Engineering Building

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.

Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey.

Sustaining Architecture in the Anti-Machine Age, edited by Ian Abley and James Woudhuysen

This website is maintained by abley@audacity.org and all material is Copyright © 2004 Audacity Limited where not copyright of the originator.