Events Archive

  • 10 September 2016,
  • Multiple venues across the county


Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September 2016

More details and launch of full website coming soon. Register your interest and stay up to date with programme announcements here.

Radical Essex is pleased to present a weekend-long programme of events to celebrate the county’s pioneering role in twentieth century architecture. The two-day festival will provide unique access to three key sites – the Bata Estate in East Tilbury, Frinton-on-Sea and Silver End village – and in doing so will show how the region was at the forefront of Modernist architecture and experimental community models.

Visitors can experience these architectural gems first-hand, travelling from one to the other on dedicated buses, and also attend talks and events conducted by leading experts and artists, including Elizabeth Darling, Owen Hatherley, Charles Holland, Alan Powers and Ellen Thorogood. The weekend will be centred around Silver End, a model village conceived

in 1926 by the industrialist Francis Henry Crittall to house workers close to his Crittall Windows factory. The village was developed from two experimental houses in nearby Cressing Road that date from 1917, showing this unique site to be the earliest example of Modernism in the UK. Today, the village still displays amalgamated architectural styles, with terraced ‘flat-tops’ sitting alongside grand Modernist mansion houses.

The Bata shoe factory in East Tilbury was no less pioneering. Founded in 1932 by the Czech visionary Thomas J. Bata, the factory is considered one of the most important planned townscapes in the East of England in the twentieth century. Meanwhile at Frinton-on-Sea, visitors will have the chance to explore the largest group of individually designed Modernist houses in the country.

All of these buildings have had a profound impact on the people of Essex, and especially those who lived in them. When Silver End celebrated its 90th anniversary in April 2016, members of the Heritage Society spoke of the importance of the village’s architecture: “The significance

of the design was not so much a concern of the first residents moving into the properties, they were however thrilled of the improved living space carefully implemented by the architects, including running water, electricity and garden space to grow produce, a rarity and luxury at that time. Over recent years renewed interest in the Modern style has made people very proud of their homes.”

Moving through the twentieth century, the weekend will also explore the contentious postwar New Town developments of Basildon and Harlow. The public will be able to visit these ‘concretopias’, as well as those of University of Essex’s radical Colchester Campus, with guided tours of the significant Brutalist buildings. In addition to these estates and living complexes, Essex also boasts a number of individual buildings of significance from the period, including The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham-on-Crouch, a building which represented Britain in MoMA’s ‘Modern Architecture: International Exhibition’ in 1932; the Wells Coates designed Shipwrights house in Benfleet; and the only

building designed solely by the world-renowned engineer Ove Arup on Canvey Island. The weekend will also feature artist commissions, including the launch of a new series of work entitled ‘The Radical National Trust’ by British artist Alan Kane, a new architectural commission from Essex-based practice HAT Projects, and ‘Details’, an Essex edition of the illustrated publication by Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture and Arnaud Desjardin. In revealing Essex as ‘The Modernist County’ this weekend will redress perceptions of the architectural history of the region. Coinciding with Heritage Open Days 2016, ‘ESSEX Architecture Weekend’ will share their ethos of discovery and curiosity, in which visitors will have the opportunity to explore and learn about the county’s progressive approaches to living practice in the twentieth century, and consider their ongoing relevance and legacy.

Radical Essex is led by Focal Point Gallery in collaboration with Visit Essex and Firstsite. Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England it forms part of the country wide Cultural Destinations programme, a partnership with VisitEngland, supporting arts organisations to work with the tourism sector to deliver projects that maximise the impact culture has on local economies.

If you are a business or arts organisation interested to be involved in the project or learn more information, please contact us here.

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