Curating OfHouses: Morris and Steedman

16 April 2016 | blog, comment, research

Morris and Steedman - Wilson House, Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland, 1958-59


In late 2015, I was invited by Daniel Tudor Munteanu to curate a three-week contribution to OfHouses, a daily updated collection of old forgotten houses. OfHouses is approaching its fiftieth curation and has featured a fascinating range of buildings gathered together by some of the most interesting practitioners, academics and commentators on architecture over the past ten years.

Morris and Steedman

Under the banner of the Cosmic Inspiro-Cloud, I chose the work of Morris and Steedman who produced a substantial body of work in Scotland from 1957 to 1973. During this period, although modernism was largely the institutional language of architecture for new public buildings in Scotland, it was never widely accepted in the sphere of private houses – there never was a glass-box or flat roof tradition. Modernism seemed to be for the masses with its emphasis on social concerns, especially around the ordinary home. Even so, Morris and Steedman managed to develop a client base with an appetite for radical design and produced a remarkable collection of houses, around Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Central Belt.

Travelling through the Scottish countryside today it seems that the 99% of the new houses built will be in a style that loosely based on a white two storey farmhouse dating from the beginning of the 18th century – the home of eighteenth-century commercial farmers from Lowland Scotland and Northern England. Today, most people planning to build their own home will reach for some sort of kit house, probably festooned with features seen on holiday or assembled from the ‘Rural Homes Collection’ of bland buildings, aimed at securing a quick and easy planning approval.

Morris and Steedman aspired to and achieved something very different. Their buildings represent many things to do with progress – artistic, cultural and technical – and a strong sense of breaking with tradition. They brought another part of the world to Scotland and developed it in a new context and crucially, in strong landscape settings. That is why they were chosen for OfHouses. You can read the rest of the essay here together with a collection of external and internal images of their work.

About OfHouses:

OfHouses is a not-for-profit project by Daniel Tudor Munteanu who is a practising architect and urban planner based in Suceava, Romania. He was educated in Romania and The Netherlands, has exhibited at the 5th ”Urbanism\Architecture Bi-city Biennale” in Shenzhen and has contributed to “OfficeUS”, the US Pavilion for the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale. His texts and graphic essays have been published in San Rocco, Volume, Log and Oase.