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Past, Present, Future: Bath and the Smithsons

Museum of Bath Architecture
The Paragon
Past, Present, Future Exhibition


200 years after the Royal Crescent was built, Alison and Peter Smithson, England’s most influential post-war architects, looked to the historic city to inspire their modern designs.  As we mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Crescent this exhibition explores the extraordinary connection between old and new in the Smithson’s work, and the buildings they designed for Bath.

Bath is Rome in England - Peter Smithson, 1971

In 1971 Peter Smithson published a poetical work on architecture that continues to inspire its readers to consider space, form, materials and nature today.  What surprises many is that this was not a work exploring examples of modern architecture, but rather a celebration of the historic city of Bath.  Walks Within the Walls takes it readers on a physical and philosophical journey around the historic streets of the Bath as they flow into the natural landscape surrounding the city.  Yet this is a publication that is as much about modernity as it is about the past.  Walking the walks reveals the originality of form, the ingenuity of designers and the understanding of materials that illustrates the innovation of the 18th and early 19th century.  Through Smithson’s eyes we see not a static city of a frozen past, but a ‘live shell’ that has much to teach and inspire our ideas of current and future design. 

The Smithson’s buildings designed for the University of Bath were their last major project in England and form a key element in the exploration of their ideas.  The fascination with history and landscape that inspired them when thinking about cities, made the work on campus in Bath even more revealing, designing on a location part of and yet detached from the historic city, but very firmly embedded in the landscape of the valley.  Coupled with Peter’s teaching as visiting professor at the university the Smithson’s have housed and influenced generations of young architects and designers in Bath. 

The walks publication is now hard to find and the University buildings are often overlooked or unknown.  By reprinting the Walks and walking them with artists, writers and designers, and by exploring the Smithson’s work in Bath through exhibitions and events this project will highlight how much the Smithson’s can teach us about the past, present and future city of Bath.

Events & Activities 2017

-24 June – 26 Nov 2017 Exhibition at Museum of Bath Architecture – drawings and archives from Smithson Family archives, Bath Record Office, archives from University of Bath, photography from RIBA. Runs parallel to exhibition at The Edge @ University of Bath on art inspired by Brutalism and the Smithsons.
-June 2017 New edition of Peter Smithson’s Walks Within the Walls – printed copies and on-line version.  Copies available free for all new students at the University of Bath School of Architecture in Autumn 2017.
-June – September 2017 Walking the Walks - Recordings/podcasts of architects/designers/landscape architects following one of Peter Smithson’s walks including Simon Smithson and others.
-What Peter Smithson taught me in Bath– webpages & reminiscences wall in exhibition at Museum of Bath Architecture and at The Edge @ University of Bath
-September 2017 Walking the Walks weekend
-October 2017 Architecture is… Lectures as part of Festival of the Future City– architects, designers, writers & artists asked to give a talk/hold discussion under the title Architecture Is… in partnership with The Edge @ University of Bath.
-October 2017 Bath Museums Week walks (half term)
-September 2017 So you think you want to be an architect? sessions for children and young people in partnership with Architecture Is…Bath Architects Group and University of Bath School of Architecture.
-June – Nov 2017 Film Screenings with the Little Theatre Cinema/Picturehouse & The Edge @ University of Bath.
-Volunteer training and resources
-Exhibition lectures and guided walks
-New Museum of Bath Architecture outreach lecture offered to local community groups/ history societies



Key Features

  • In town/city centre
  • Indoor Event

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Tel: 01225 428126

Opening Times

Opening (24 June 2017 - 26 Nov 2017)
Visit Bath in Partnership with