New book celebrates high street architecture

A new book from The Twentieth Century Society celebrates the architecturally significant shops that shaped Britain’s high streets and shopping habits through the 20th century and beyond.

The Twentieth Century Society protects outstanding architecture and design dating from 1914 onwards; it now has over 100 years of buildings under its protection. Its remit is to protect the best of all types and styles of architecture from neo-Georgian to Art Deco, Modern Movement to prefab, and its campaigns now extend to brutalist and post-modern buildings.

Between 2015 and 2022, 52% of all department stores closed in the UK, which prompted the Twentieth Century Society to launch a campaign to save these historically important buildings.

Its new book, 100 20th-Century Shops, provides an appreciation of the architectural heritage of the high street. It showcases shops of all kinds, from supermarkets, bookshops and co-ops to furniture stores, shopping centres and pedestrianised precincts. The book offers an insight into the history and evolution of Britain’s consumer culture, capturing the diverse design trends that emerged, with architectural styles ranging from Art Deco and brutalist to Festival style and moderne.

Listed buildings and condemned properties
Iconic store, Heals, is featured in the book

Featured are shops that have been open for a century, including grade II*-listed Heal’s and grade II-listed Liberty’s in London. Meanwhile, others are at risk of demolition, including the brutalist Cumbernauld Town Centre and Aberdeen’s Norco House, which was included on Twentieth Century Society’s 2023 risk list of the top 10 most threatened 20th and 21st-century buildings across the UK.

Writing about the shops are leading architectural critics and historians including Gillian Darley, Alistair Fair, Posy Metz and Elain Harwood, who also explores the evolution of post-war market buildings. Other essays include Lynn Pearson on the influence of co-ops, Matthew Whitfield on the growth of department stores, Kathryn A. Morrison on retail chains and Bronwen Edwards on the ephemeral world of fashion boutiques.

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