My Modern Movement
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According to Robert Best, one of the England's leading manufacturers in the 1930s and 40s, modern design was foisted on the UK by a coterie of self-elected London intellectuals with no understanding of the realities of product design, sales or public demand. His memoir is a withering account of the autocratic way in which practice was made to step aside for the sake of theory.
|Date Published||4th November 2021|
For those of advanced tastes, the Modern Movement was a welcome corrective to the debased aesthetics of the commercial world. The products of light industry were as untutored in the 1920s and 30s as massed housing and both took scant interest in the idealist thinking that sought to harness architecture and design to social progress. Robert Best, one of Britain’s leading industrialists in this period, shared the goal of better mass education but was troubled by Modernism’s promoters, for reasons that they found hard to understand. If the few knew better than the many, and had an obligation to elevate them whether they liked it or not, where did this leave the democratic principles that our liberal society prided itself on? Best felt that the campaign to popularise Functionalist design took propaganda into territory that had uncomfortable political overtones. In this extraordinary memoir, written in the early 1950s but never previously published, Best explored his concern about the sense of noblesse oblige that lay behind such bodies as the Council of Industrial Design, set up in 1944 ostensibly to raise the saleability and quality of British manufacturing but also, in his view, to brainwash the public into denying what it liked in favour of more cultivated but untested alternatives.