Holly Smith

Holly Smith Photo

Research interests(BA, MPhil Cambridge, PhD University College London) for History
I am an historian of modern Britain. My work lies at the intersection of architectural and political history. I’m crucially preoccupied by how people translate their feelings about the built environment into language.
My doctoral thesis offered a new history of high-rise housing and its grassroots reception in Britain. It revised influential arguments that high-rise architecture has been universally unpopular amongst its inhabitants. I excavated a diverse range of historical residential responses to different multi-storey environments to suggest a more nuanced relationship between architectural form and subjectivity.
At St John’s, I’m turning to a new project on the post-war community architecture movement. Responding to the perceived repression of democracy in 'modernist' post-war urban design, this movement called for more participatory architectural practice. My project traces the curious migration of the movement’s arguments – from their emergence in leftist counter-culture during the 1960s–70s to their redeployment by figures on the right by the 1980s. This research proposes that the ‘New Left’ and ‘New Right’ (conventionally characterised as profoundly polarised camps) drew upon a shared political language in post-war Britain.