Form and Fancy: Factories and Factory Buildings by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, 1916-1939

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Liverpool University Press, 1997 - Architecture - 317 pages
In 1916, at an unpropitious time, Thomas Wallis founded a new practice, Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, primarily to collaborate with an American company in the design of factories to be constructed of reinforced concrete. Up to this time, the designing of factories was not popular among architects and many manufacturers regarded the employment of an architect as a wanton extravagance. Wallis's move could in this light be seen as a reckless gamble, but the subsequent achievements of him and his partners suggest that his choice had been well considered. They became prolific designers of factories and some of the best known inter-war industrial buildings – Firestone, Hoover, The Gramophone Company, Glaxo Laboratories to name only a few – were their work.

Skinner looks first at the biographical background of Wallis, at the history and organization of the partnership he founded, and at the many factors that contributed to its reputation in the inter-war years. She then offers a perspective on architectural thought and activity in that period, and of the attitudes and influences on factory design. Designs by the partnership for over one hundred factories and factory buildings have been discovered and, at the core of the book is a third chapter which analyses and assesses them under four headings: the early "daylight/masonry" style; the "fancy" factories of the mid-term years of 1927–35; the more sculptural and geometrical "British modern" later works up to 1939; and designs, including overseas commissions, that do not easily fit within the three style groups. Skinner concludes with an evaluation of the philosophy of Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, which was to contribute through the architectural design of factories to the successful pursuit of business by the companies that commissioned them.

Although factories have played an influential role in society for more than two centuries, their design has rarely caught the imagination of architectural historians. Their neglect of the field is now being rectified to some extent and this book will contribute to the further stimulation of interest in the architectural history of factories.

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Interwar architecture and factories
Analysis and assessment
C The later works to 1939the SculpturalGeometric phase
d Other designs
ii Miscellany
About it and about and some conclusions
Appendix A
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About the author (1997)

Joan S. Skinner conducted research for the subject of this book which originally led to the award of a PhD degree by the University of Liverpool. She has an abiding interest in factories and is presently engaged on a book about the factories of Leicester, where she now lives.

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