Design and revolution: Morris, modernism and urban gothic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Downloads (Pure)


This article reassesses the influence of gothic design principles on
twentieth century urbanism and considers their contemporary import.
The paper elucidates how William Morris’s gothic design philosophy,
which inspired two major strains of contemporary urbanism, became
detached from its radical politics as it migrated from England to the
United States. Architectural modernism came to dominate urban
design, characterized in opposition to gothic principles, and aligned
with capitalist production. Modern architects championed and
fetishized machine aesthetics, which were applied to urban-scale
design with ambiguous consequences. The scaling of design principles
between objects, buildings and cities has been a prominent yet
neglected aspect of twentieth century urbanism, requiring greater
critical attention. The paper articulates a defense of “gothic ontology”,
not as neo-revivalist style but type of praxis. It is contended that three
gothic design imperatives - aesthetics of labour, politics of making and
vitality of ecology – are resurgent in urban thought today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalUrban Geography
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2021


  • Le Corbusier
  • Morris
  • aesthetics
  • design
  • gothic
  • modernism


Dive into the research topics of 'Design and revolution: Morris, modernism and urban gothic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this