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Eric de Mare and the functional tradition

Historic EnglandIn 1958 J M Richards published The Functional Tradition in Early Industrial Buildings. It was fully illustrated with Eric de Mare's photographs (often cropped to focus on the relevant detail). Richards began his foreword: "This is primarily a picture book, and is, therefore, more Eric de Mare's creation than mine".

The 'functional tradition' was defined by Richards and de Mare as that style of design which, though dominated by functional considerations, is remarkable for the wide range and subtlety of its aesthetic effects. It runs through all periods of English architecture, but comes out most strongly in the industrial architecture of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The purpose of Richards' book was to educate readers to appreciate a range of buildings the architectural merits of which had not at that date been recognised, and also to illustrate a tradition of functional design in English architecture. De Mare was himself keen to demonstrate that functional design was not invented in the 1930s, and had a long and honourable history in English architecture. Although the tradition can be traced back into the medieval period, the book deliberately focused on the early industrial revolution.

Author: English Heritage NMR

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