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Shawms shows what 1930s women were made of

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Valeria Carullo

Female architects flourished between the wars, as Margaret Justin Blanco White demonstrated

The inter-war years saw female architects finally being given access to the profession and contributing significant projects to the development of British architecture. Remarkable is the case of Elizabeth Scott, who led the design team of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1932. The generation of young architects that embraced the modern movement included a number of women, such as Sadie Speight, who designed houses and furniture units with her husband Leslie Martin, and Mary Crowley, who after the war went on to work on the pioneering school programme of Hertfordshire County Council.

Less well known is Margaret Justin Blanco White, who studied at the Architectural Association between 1929 and 1934. Here she was awarded travelling scholarships that allowed her to visit Austria, Germany, Russia and France. ‘Shawms’, the house she built in Cambridge in 1938, was first designed in reinforced concrete but, due to the material’s shortage in the lead-up to the war, was realised instead with a timber structure. ‘Shawms’ was also one of the few timber-clad modern houses of the 1930s.

Beyond Bauhuas: Modernism in Britain 1933-1966 is open at the RIBA Architecture Gallery between 1 October 2019 and 1 February 2020

Read a preview of the Beyond Bauhaus