The Bartlett School of Architecture


Online Event: The Bartlett Research Conversations

05 May 2020, 4:00 pm–5:30 pm

'Section A2 Flyover No 21' of the M1 motorway c.1958-59. © Historic England, John Laing Photographic Collection JLP01/14/0008

Architectural & Urban History & Theory MPhil/PhD student, Tony Presland, discusses his research on the history of John Laing & Son’s.

Event Information

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Thomas Abbs


This event will now take place online
Please find the link below
United Kingdom

This event will now take place on Blackboard.

Picturing Construction, Constructing Identities: The Photographic Archive of John Laing & Son's Ltd

Tony Presland

Supervisors: Professor Iain Borden and Robin Wilson


Tony’s research investigates the history of John Laing & Son’s, one of the UK’s prime construction companies in the twentieth century. Through studying an archive of 230,000 photographs Tony explores how Laing built ‘Modern Britain’ through the development of new construction techniques and architectures, from the M1 motorway to the first commercial nuclear power station. Tony’s research considers three questions:

  • Can this archive be considered a form of identity?
  • How does the archive document the buildings and infrastructure that Laing created and how does it support an architectural history of the period?
  • What are the different forms of representation presented in the archive and do the types of buildings being documented impact their representation? 

The importance of progress photography will be considered, linking architectural photography to a documentary approach.
This research shines a light on construction processes in the twentieth century, including the people and processes that helped rebuild Britain after the Second World War.

About The Bartlett Research Conversations

The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Research Conversations seminars comprise work-in-progress and upgrade presentations by students undertaking the MPhil/PhD Architectural Design and MPhil/PhD Architectural and Urban History and Theory. All current UCL staff and students are welcome to attend.

Held regularly throughout the academic year, the seminars are attended by the programme directors, Professor Jonathan Hill and Professor Sophia Psarra, PhD Coordinators, Dr. Nina Vollenbröker and Dr Sophie Read, and other PhD supervisors.

Image: 'Section A2 Flyover No 21' of the M1 motorway c.1958-59. © Historic England, John Laing Photographic Collection JLP01/14/0008