Parker Morris and the Fordist House

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    6.00 pm. If people like watching T.V. while they are eating their evening meal, space for a low table is needed (Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Space in the Home, 1963, p. 4).

    This paper re-examines the 1961 Parker Morris report on housing standards in Britain. It explores the origins, scope, text and iconography of the report and suggests that these not only express a particularly modernist conception of space but one which presupposed very specific economic conditions and geographies.

    Also known as Homes for Today and Tomorrow Parker Morris attempted, through the application of scientific principles, to define the minimum living space standards needed to accommodate household activities. But while early modernist research into notions of existenzminimum were the work of avant-garde architects and thinkers, Homes for Today and Tomorrow and its sister design manual Space in the Home were commissioned by the British State. This normalization of scientific enquiry into space can be considered not only as a response to new conditions in the mass production of housing – economies of scale, prefabrication, system-building and modular coordination – but also to the post-war boom in consumer goods. In this, it is suggested that the domestic interior was assigned a key role as a privileged site of mass consumption as the production and micro-management of space in Britain became integral to the development of a planned national economy underpinned by Fordist principles. Parker Morris, therefore, sought to accommodate activities which were pre-determined not so much by traditional social or familial ties but rather by recently introduced commodities such as the television set, white goods, table tennis tables and train sets. This relationship between the domestic interior and the national economy are emblematized by the series of placeless and scale-less diagrams executed by Gordon Cullen in Space in the Home. Here, walls dissolve as space flows from inside to outside in a homogenized and ephemeral landscape whose limits are perhaps only the boundaries of the nation state and the circuits of capital.

    In Britain, Parker Morris was the last explicit State-sponsored attempt to prescribe a normative spatial programme for national living. The calm neutral efficiency of family-life expressed in its diagrams was almost immediately problematised by the rise of 1960s counter-culture, the feminist movement and the oil crisis of 1972 which altered perhaps forever the spatial, temporal and economic conditions it had taken for granted. The debate on space-standards, however, continues.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011
    EventEconomy Conference - University of Cardiff, Cardiff, United Kingdom
    Duration: 06 Jul 201108 Jul 2011


    ConferenceEconomy Conference
    CountryUnited Kingdom


    • housing
    • space standards
    • Parker Morris
    • modularisation
    • prefabrication

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