Dr. Adam Page

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Adam Page is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at mecs. He completed his undergraduate degree in English Literature and History at the University of Sheffield, where he stayed for his MA in Twentieth Century History. In January 2014 he completed his PhD in the History Department in Sheffield where he worked on air war and urban planning in Britain. His thesis, “The Architecture of Survival: Planning the Future of Cities in the Shadow of Air War, Britain 1935-52”, considers how the fear and expectation of future air raids recast cities as targets in architectural and government approaches to urban areas and infrastructure.

He is interested in the impact of war and lived experience in perceptions of the future, and how reconstruction planning was informed by a desire to uncover an imagined ‘natural’ order in biological and ecological systems and then replicate this in human societies.



Envisioning a global equilibrium as an answer to world war in the mid-twentieth century

This research project is concerned with mid-twentieth century ideas about the imagined order and equilibrium of nature and the attempts to transpose the perceived harmony of biological and ecological systems into human societies and the built environment. Drawing on the work of Gregory Bateson, it examines the connections between images of the functionalism of nature and the developing theories of computer simulation and mechanization. This project will historicise these ideas by examining the impact of war and mass society in the first half of the twentieth century on the work of E. A. A. Rowse, an influential proponent of an ecologically-inspired version of town planning in Britain.

Rowse, a structural engineer and architect, occupied a number of important positions in architectural education in Britain between the wars. This research project tracks the development of his thought from his work on city planning in the 1930s to the search for a global equilibrium that occupied him during and after the Second World War. A close analysis of Rowse’s ideas affords an insight into a number of crucial elements in the development of ideas of planning, imagined and simulated stability, expert knowledge, and the relationship between human societies and the natural environment. This project addresses the MECS research agenda by investigating the development of simulation as a technique of imagining the future before computerisation. It asks how the early versions of simulation carried out by Rowse reflect developing cultures of knowledge that aimed to assimilate a broad range of data, but relied on an essentially imperialist view of the world.

Running throughout these areas of investigation is a central question about the importance of historicising ideas about rationality and scientific planning in the context of world war and feared nuclear annihilation. Rowse fought in both world wars, and it is my contention that the development of visions of global order was heavily influenced by the experience of living through this period of history. Rowse’s work reflects the notion expressed by C. Wright Mills in 1958 that ‘utopian action is now survival action’.1 Survival in this context meant the imposition of a rational and scientifically determined natural order that would remove the 1 C. Wright Mills, The Causes of World War Three (New York, 1958), p. 113. points of conflict that result in war, but also required the construction of new types of knowledge that obscured the complicated reality of interactions in human societies. His approach attempted to make the vast complex of problems that had led to two world wars and the spectre of nuclear war accessible for analysis and thus resolvable.