The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Events Archive

In Person: Twentieth Century Shops Lecture Series 4: Supermarkets



The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street

Twentieth Century Shops Lecture Series 4: Supermarkets

Thursday 22 February at 6.30 pm

The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6EJ

The fourth lecture in the series Twentieth Century Shops: From Arndale to Zara, marking the publication of 100 20th Century Shops.

The concept of the self-service supermarket was definitively established after the Second World War and rose quickly to a position of dominance. This talk will explore its architectural evolution, taking in early conversions, the rise of supermarkets on high streets, later ‘off-centre’ locations with ample parking, and the rise of the large superstore and hypermarket. We will consider the varying styles of the supermarket, from the hyper-modernism of the 1960s to the ‘big barn style’ and high tech of the 1980s, and will also look at attempts made in recent years to create more sustainable shops. The talk will reflect on the fundamental ways in which the shopping experience was transformed, and the technologies and ideas that enabled it. Architecturally, it is a story with some famous names but, at the same time, an account of perhaps the ultimate in ‘mainstream modernism’, created by a raft of now little-known specialist designers whose work deserves to be better appreciated – not least because of its reach, and its impact on everyday life.

Dr Alistair Fair is Reader in Architectural History at the University of Edinburgh. Having written about subjects ranging from post-war theatre architecture to the work of Peter Moro, he is currently completing a co-written book about the Scottish new towns and recently contributed to Channel 5’s TV series Secrets of the 70s Supermarket.

In person price: C20 Society Members -  £10;  Non-Members - £ 15;  Young C20 member + guest- Free;  Student + guest- £5.

*For student pricing please select from the dropdown option next to 'membership number' on the booking form below.*

*For Young C20 members, please email  to secure a place.*

Includes a glass of wine

Note: This event is hybrid and is being run both in-person at Cowcross Street Gallery and online via Zoom. The event will be recorded and offered as a catch-up lecture for those who have booked and will be available for two weeks.

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The Twentieth Century Society is an IHBC (Institute of Historic Building conservation) recognised CPD provider.

The Twentieth Century Society is a registered charity, no 1110244

Above image:  Greenwich Sainsbury's (1999) © Cheetwoods Architects