Sleeping Towers, Inglenooks and Houses for All

An exhibition celebrating the life and works of Barry Parker, one of the unsung heroes of the Arts & Crafts Movement, will open at Letchworth’s Broadway Gallery later this year on 4 May.

Parker, along with his business partner Raymond Unwin, created the template for the Garden Cities model but his influence on architecture globally is less well known. He believed passionately that architecture and thoughtful planning of community spaces could change lives - Letchworth Garden City was his masterpiece and his home for more than 40 years.

The exhibition, which is being created by the team at the Garden City Collection, will showcase a selection of the 4,500 historical objects from the Parker Collection. Visitors will be able to see architectural plans and drawings from both the UK and abroad including early checkerboard street plans, which allowed gardens on three sides of the house improving space and light, and plans for Oporto in Portugal sharing many characteristics with Letchworth. Photographs, fine art produced by Parker and furniture pieces will bring to life his interiors and exteriors, with signature Arts & Crafts features and some individual touches, such as Parker’s own master bedroom with sliding windows for open air sleeping thought to be beneficial to health at the time.

Vicky Axell, Curator of the Garden City Collection said: “Parker had a unique approach to architecture but hasn’t enjoyed the same level of recognition of some of his peers. He is an undiscovered genius of the Arts & Crafts Movement and had a big social conscience. He believed in building homes for all regardless of their wealth and social status in society.

“His ethos focused on harmony, sunlight and equality, which meant that the homes he designed were functional and beautiful, filled with light, affordable and fitted into the surrounding environment. Put simply, he wanted to create decent places for people to live: architecture for all.”

She concluded: “His centenary felt like the right time to re-examine his contribution to architecture, and we hope that this exhibition achieves that.”

To coincide with the exhibition, Vicky and her colleagues have written a book entitled Barry Parker 1867-1947, Architecture of Harmony, Sunlight and Quality, based on research by Dr Mervyn Miller. Featuring more than 200 images from the Garden City Collection, the book is a celebration of the archive held at the Collection's Study Centre. It also explores his private work and social housing projects in the UK and abroad where he planned towns in Brazil and Portugal.

The exhibition also includes a project by artist Katherine Mager, working in collaboration with the Gallery and Collection. Living History explores the legacy of Barry Parker’s architecture in Letchworth today, through a series of photographs and interviews with current residents of Parker homes.

A series of events will run as part of the celebration, including a walking trail around Letchworth that takes in some of Parker's finest works. There is also a mini exhibition at the International Garden Cities Exhibition (formerly Parker's home and drawing office) featuring some of his furniture designs.

Following its run in Letchworth, a touring exhibition will visit other places designed by Parker to further highlight his place in architectural history.

To find out more about the exhibition, visit the Broadway website for more details or call on 01462 476110.