The Telephone Exchange Building (1945-1981): Technology, ‘Official Architecture’ and the State
Professor Richard Brook (Lancaster University)
Professor Luca Csepely-Knorr (University of Liverpool)
Wayne Cocroft (Historic England)
Anne Archer (BT Group Archives)
The history of the telephone exchange building and the relationships between architecture, technology and the state have not been thoroughly investigated. Working in collaboration with BT Archives and Historic England, this NWCDTP / AHRC funded research project presents a unique opportunity to combine disparate archival, visual and technical pieces of information to create an overview of the evolution of the building type and the forces behind its inception, procurement, construction, use and decommission, to bring new insights into the mechanics of the state and its agents.
This project aims to establish the developing relationships between architecture, technology and the state over the course of forty years. During this time, the telephone exchange building type evolved from a civic edifice to a more discrete and efficient type of building, driven by cost savings and standardisation with some allowance for regional variations.
This project also aims to map the key actors involved at in the commissioning, design and construction of the telephone exchange buildings to form an understanding of the governing structures that enabled their development. Linking disparate bits of information may reveal individual biographies of key actors previously obscured behind state organisations.
To achieve the above aims, and to inform new ways of thinking about twentieth century infrastructural architecture, this project seeks to develop a transferrable methodological approach which goes beyond functional and stylistic qualities. Such a methodology can bring new insights into the mechanics of the state and its agents and can be applied in the interrogation of other public building typologies with similarly obscured histories.
Architecture and urban design,
Post-war architectural history
June 2023: ‘The Architecture of Telephone Exchange Buildings’, article in the ITP Journal 17(2)
May 2023: ‘Beyond the Operator: The women connecting the welfare state’ paper presented at the Visions of Welfare conference, co-hosted by Women of the Welfare Landscape Project, the SAHGB, and the Women in Danish Architecture
November 2022: ‘Owned not by the Crown’, article in the Modernist Magazine, issue #45
March 2022: ‘All [ex]Change: Re-using the Lee Circle telephone exchange’ paper presented at the SAHGB’s Annual Architectural History Symposium for PhD Scholars and Early Career Researchers