Jan 7 2012: Twenty Five Maps Showing Layouts and Exhibits at The Festival of Britain (South Bank Exhibition Programme, 1951)

Following yesterday’s introductory miscellany of drawings, models and photographs, today presents what is, I suppose, the meat of the Festival of Britain programme, in the form of 25 maps guiding visitors through the various themed exhibitions that made up the South Bank Site in 1951. Ordered as in the programme itself, beginning in The Land of Britain and moving – by way of The Natural Scene, Power and Production, Outer Space and The Seaside – to the final 1851 Centenary Pavilion and Shot Tower, where we might, presumably, have then relaxed into simple enjoyment of the spectacles on offer around the exteriors of the exhibition buildings: by all accounts, at various times, this could have meant anything from a Steel Band imported from Trinidad to mass Ballroom dancing under artificial lighting during the late evenings. While these maps allow a fairly detailed sense of what the 1951 Festival’s exhibitions contained, they’re also rather beautifully designed in their own right, like graphic abstractions of a kind more usually seen in Victor Pasmore or Stuart Davis catalogues. In this sense, their form – as all good design should – echoes their function very closely indeed.

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