The Architect and the "Arch-pedant": Sadie Speight, Nikolaus Pevsner and "Design Review

Jill Seddon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Drawing upon a hitherto overlooked set of correspondence between architect and designer Sadie Speight and historian and critic Nikolaus Pevsner, this article addresses a brief but significant episode in the history of the eminent architectural journal, Architectural Review, which has not previously been investigated by other writers in the field. In 1943, the Architectural Review decided to formalise its approach to contemporary design by introducing a regular ‘Design Review’ section, which ran from 1944 until 1946. As one of the principal editors, Nikolaus Pevsner asked the architect and industrial designer Sadie Speight to compile these features, thereby initiating a working relationship that was difficult as well as productive. The article interrogates the Speight/Pevsner correspondence, currently lodged with the papers of Speight’s husband, the architect Sir Leslie Martin, in the RIBA archive at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in a variety of ways. It considers the significance of the use of personal letters in the construction of history as well as using them as the basis for the examination of a gender-inflected professional relationship between two important commentators on post-war design, in particular their positions as advocates of modernism in Britain in relation to the stance of the Architectural Review. Equally, it capitalises upon a unique means of understanding in detail the minutiae of the processes of design journalism and magazine production in post-war Britain. The presentation of this unique case study in the foremost journal in the field is used to raise issues concerning the writing of design history which are currently being debated within the discipline. This article is a further outcome of a sustained period of research, from 2003 onwards, as a member of the Gender and Built Space research group at the University of Brighton.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-41
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Design History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


  • Design Journalism, Post-war Britain,


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