Ash, Maurice (4 of 9) National Life Story Collection: Architects' Lives

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    Interviewee's home, Devon

  • Interviewees

    Ash, Maurice, 1917-2003 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 4: MA wanted to put art and sociology together for real reform. Harlow Arts Trust was begun, to adorn the town with sculpture. Bought works of art from burgeoning sculptors in the 50s. The Trust still exists. They have Hepworth. Henry Moore (this was vandalised so often that MA thinks it has now gone back to the Foundation); Elisabeth Frink. The early new towns were seen by the government as housing projects. MA got to know Freddie Gibberd and his second wife - a civilised man. Gibberd got a good variety of housing architects to work there. Henning and Chitty, good honest domestic English architects. Unpretentious and on a human scale. Not striving to make a statement of architectural ego. Freddie Gibberd did not do himself justice in the centre of Harlow. The new town idea was almost in MAs blood from his school days with Stephen Reiss. MA was glad to be able to act in a charitable way. Letchworth was rescued by the Town and Country Planning Association [TCPA] in the late 50s. FJ Osborn stirred up politicians to prevent a woman getting hold of the shares. Osborn asked MA for voluntary help with the TCPA. MA learnt on the job, went up north first, to talk to people. Remembers being involved with the Greater London Development Plan [GLDP]. He led resistance to the Plan when chairman of the TCPA. GLDP was based on the motorway box, and the TCPA felt it would clog up London and achieve nothing. They were laughed at when they suggested that the population of London would fall. There was a strong lobby for urbanisation at the time, i.e. high rise. This was only stopped by Ronan Point disaster. The TCPA had influence from the 1920s onwards, particularly with the Labour Party. This led to the New Town and Expanded Town Acts. Unfortunately the development money went back to the Treasury, so new towns were emasculated. The TCPA lost influence after the GLDP. Had been strong alliance with the Council for the Preservation of Rural England [CPRE] under Abercrombie. The CPRE later became a "nimby" organisation, lacking compassion. Depending on whether agriculture is in a prosperous phase or not, resistance to development in the countryside changes accordingly.

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