The Architecture of Pleasure: British Amusement Parks 1900–1939, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Architecture of Pleasure

British Amusement Parks 1900–1939, 1st Edition

By Josephine Kane


284 pages

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The amusement parks which first appeared in England at the turn of the twentieth century represent a startlingly novel and complex phenomenon, combining fantasy architecture, new technology, ersatz danger, spectacle and consumption in a new mass experience. Though drawing on a diverse range of existing leisure practices, the particular entertainment formula they offered marked a radical departure in terms of visual, experiential and cultural meanings. The huge, socially mixed crowds that flocked to the new parks did so purely in the pursuit of pleasure, which the amusement parks commodified in exhilarating new guises. Between 1906 and 1939, nearly 40 major amusement parks operated across Britain. By the outbreak of the Second World War, millions of people visited these sites each year. The amusement park had become a defining element in the architectural psychological pleasurescape of Britain. This book considers the relationship between popular modernity, pleasure and the amusement park landscape in Britain from 1900-1939. It argues that the amusement parks were understood as a new and distinct expression of modern times which redefined the concept of public pleasure for mass audiences. Focusing on three sites - Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Dreamland in Margate and Southend's Kursaal - the book contextualises their development with references to the wider amusement park world. The meanings of these sites are explored through a detailed examination of the spatial and architectural form taken by rides and other buildings. The rollercoaster - a defining symbol of the amusement park - is given particular focus, as is the extent to which discourses of class, gender and national identity were expressed through the design of these parks.


'Fascinating empirical research, using rich archive sources, is described and understood in the context of contemporary cultural theory and discourses on modernity, leisure and pleasure, technology, the body, class, gender and national identity. Thoroughly satisfactory, the approach allows the author to examine both the making of amusement parks - their design, layout and change over time - and how people, particularly as members of ’the crowd’, experienced them'. Context 'The author’s decision to focus on specific, key amusement parks is a real strength of The Architecture of Pleasure, since it enables detailed discussion of individual rides and attractions, and for various phases of management, re-building, and expansion to be examined and set within wider social and architectural developments and discourses'. Journal of Historical Geography 'This is clearly a fascinating work for anyone interested in a people’s cultural practices - including their leisure habits and the mental and physical (and very often architectural) environment related to them. The text is abundantly illustrated, which enables an argument to be followed which would otherwise remain abstract … (it) deserves a place in the library of every university and school of architecture. The voluminous bibliography (which also includes articles and chapters in multi-authored works) will be of invaluable use to any French scholar wishing to pursue research in the field covered.' Antoine Capet, in Histara les comptes rendus 'Josephine Kane’s intelligent, well-researched book … provides a meaningful historical foundation for visual studies researchers and lays the groundwork for future multidisciplinary studies, particularly for scholars interested in affect. Finally, Kane’s commitment to visual scholarship is evident in the number and quality of illustrations, which are both visually compelling and supply graphic evidence of her arguments.' Visual Studies 'This informative and entertai

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; A fortune in a thrill: the rise of the amusement park 1900-1920; A whirl of wonders! Technology, machine bodies and moving images; A great fun city: crowds, space and time; Putting order into chaos: the amusement park 1920-1939; Shifting modernities: pleasure and leisure at the amusement park; Conclusion: modern pleasures; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

Ashgate Studies in Architecture

Ashgate Studies in Architecture
The discipline of Architecture is undergoing subtle transformation as design awareness permeates our visually dominated culture. Technological change, the search for sustainability and debates around the value of place and meaning of the architectural gesture are aspects which will affect the cities we inhabit. This series seeks to address such topics, both theoretically and in practice, through the publication of high quality original research, written and visual. Topics to be covered include the following: Architectural history and theory and their relationship to the development of the discipline, building conservation, heritage and creative adaptation. The formal and aesthetic values of architectural design, the diversity of its expression of identity, and its representation in other media. The impact of technological innovation on the materialisation of architecture and the questions surrounding environmental sustainability, experimentation and visionary design The social and psychological context of architectural production, its relationship to occupants, clients and to other creative and professional disciplines, and the political situation in which it is commissioned. Proposals will be welcomed which explore or connect aspects of these themes. Subjects which deal with individual architects, with specific buildings or building types, and the critical interpretation of historical and contemporary architecture from a theoretical or philosophical perspective are particularly encouraged. Architecture's embodiment of technical, social, and aesthetic aspects will also be emphasised.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Adaptive Reuse & Renovation