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Celebrating 90 years of the Building Centre – 1931 to the present day

4 Jun–3 Sep 2021
Main Gallery

This summer we celebrate our 90th Anniversary with an exhibition that reflects on the Building Centre's key activities from 1931 to the present day, in the context of five themes and provocations; the role of women in architecture, the evolution of technology, the challenge of the climate crisis, internationalism and housing. 

Founded in 1931, the Building Centre started life as a building materials bureau at the Architectural Association (AA) with the aim of demonstrating to students and architects the best contemporary products and materials available, thus connecting the world of manufacturing with the study and practice of architecture. In a unique offering, the Centre urged visitors to ‘discover here how to create useful and beautiful structures’ with products displayed in sections ranging from floor coverings to glass.

AA School Secretary Frank Yerbury became the first Managing Director, a position he held for 30 years. The Centre was ambitious in its intention that ‘the architect and others interested in building’ be kept informed of ‘modern developments in building materials’.  

Ninety years later the Building Centre is run by the Built Environment Trust, an independent charitable organisation dedicated to supporting knowledge and practice in the world of building. Today, our public programme celebrates the best in contemporary practice, material and product innovation, fabrication methods, engineering and design. Now more than ever, the materials that make up our built environment are under scrutiny. Climate change and the awareness that our planet’s resources are finite necessitate a radical shift in thinking. Frank Yerbury’s original intentions for the Building Centre as a place for education and information is as vital – if not more so – as it was in 1931.

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Material drawn from the Building Centre and Architectural Association archives. Curated by the Building Centre exhibitions team. With special thanks to:

Michael James
Building Centre archivist

Edward Bottoms
Architectural Association archivist

Dr Neal Shasore

Exhibition design
Install Archive

Graphic design
John McGill

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