Furniture Building and Bowellism

The Bowellism Movement.


“Like some prehistoric monster in the process of shuffling off its vestigial skeleton” was how James Stirling, our instructor, described the project at a 4 th. year crit. The school was the Regent Street Poly and the year 1958. We (the students) had been ‘invited’, in the quaint parlance of our instructors, to design the headquarters of an association of furniture manufacturers in High Wycombe, a town 40 miles west of London.

Two of us, John Davidson and myself, had become interested in Pier Luigi Nervi’s experiments with ferro cimento and in the ‘Endless House’ of Frederick Kiesler, the influence of which determined the form of our tectonic response to the invitation. At the same time we suggested Nervi and Kiesler claim paternity for a new movement in architecture: Bowellism, the movement.

The name derives from the printed text of a 1959 BBC radio broadcast in which the noted historian and critic Nikolaus Pevsner held forth regarding the state of modern architecture in Britain. All was well, apparently, except for certain disturbing trends to be found in the schools. I listened to the broadcast and seem to remember Pevsner uttering the words: “like bowels connected by bits of gristle”. With a growing sense of horror did I realize he  was referring to our projects.

Oil of Furniture Factory and the Bowelism Movement.

Oil of Furniture Factory and the Bowelism Movement.