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‘A Time ⋅ A Place’ is a portrait of cars and architecture

Cars and architecture can be an awkward pairing, for the latter has all too often been bent out of shape to accommodate the former. But as plenty of back issues of Wallpaper* will attest, when you get it right, the combination of forms makes for a perfect picture.

That’s the thinking behind A Time ⋅ A Place, a new monograph from architectural photographer Daniel Hopkinson and architect John Piercy Holroyd. Subtitled ‘An exploration of automotive and architectural design’, it is also designated as Volume 1, covering the years 1964 to 1982.

‘A Time ⋅ A Place’: flicking through the book

A Time ⋅ A Place: An exploration of automotive and architectural design

Sports and Recreation Centre, Coventry and the Rover SD1, 1977, from A Time ⋅ A Place

(Image credit: Daniel Hopkinson)

For this is a monograph with a very specific brief: to capture the winners of the prestigious European Car of the Year (ECOTY) Award since its inception in 1964, alongside a striking piece of architecture from the same date. As a logistical exercise, it’s impressive enough, but Hopkinson and Holroyd have an eye for vintage elegance and an innate understanding of the pitfalls of retro-fetishism.

A Time ⋅ A Place: An exploration of automotive and architectural design

Crystal Palace National Recreation Centre, London, and the Rover P6, 1964, from A Time ⋅ A Place

(Image credit: Daniel Hopkinson)

Like any awards scheme, ECOTY is not without its misfires. Sometimes, the benefits of hindsight play out and what might have been a leftfield choice at the time has been vindicated by eventual cult status. Other times, the jury (made up of a rotating coterie of European automotive journalists) clearly played it safe. Whatever the outcome, the results make for a fascinating insight into whatever was deemed the cutting edge of automotive design.

A Time ⋅ A Place: An exploration of automotive and architectural design

National Motor Museum, Beaulieu and the Citroën GS, designed by Robert Opron, 1971, from A Time ⋅ A Place

(Image credit: Daniel Hopkinson)

By pairing the results with the best of British architecture, the authors have found a winning combination. Traditionally, appreciation of architecture culture lags some way behind automotive design in the popular imagination. From the 1960s onwards, bashing modern architecture became a popular sport. By photographing familiar automotive forms alongside exemplary contemporary architecture, the authors subtly re-align our perception of modern design.

A Time ⋅ A Place: An exploration of automotive and architectural design

The ‘Camberwell Submarine’, London and the Mercedes S-Class W116, 1974, from A Time ⋅ A Place

(Image credit: Daniel Hopkinson)

Two years in the making, this first volume is very much a labour of love for Hopkinson and Holroyd. As the author notes, these images should also be considered against the backdrop of a broader societal reassessment of resources. When will internal combustion engines be completely phased out (making all these cars obsolete)? Should architecture from this era be retro-fitted rather than demolished? What will be the relationship between cars and architecture going forward?

A Time ⋅ A Place: An exploration of automotive and architectural design

Former UMIST Campus, Manchester, and the Renault 16, 1966, from A Time ⋅ A Place

(Image credit: Daniel Hopkinson)

Most of the structures shown here are rightly acknowledged as classics and therefore maintained and protected. By now, all of the cars in this first volume fall into the ‘classic’ category, even if some have only recently been added to the pantheon.

A Time ⋅ A Place: An exploration of automotive and architectural design

Ulster Museum, Belfast, and the Fiat 127, 1972, from A Time ⋅ A Place

(Image credit: Daniel Hopkinson)

‘Through the lens of time, both (cars and buildings) have become highly symbolic of their eras and hindsight will allow us to trace the roots of each design to determine how it is viewed from a 21st century perspective,’ says Holroyd, noting that over this period architecture underwent a stylistic retreat, just as car design became emboldened and more avant-garde.

A Time ⋅ A Place: An exploration of automotive and architectural design

St Augustine’s R.C Chapel, Manchester, and the NSU R080, 1968, from A Time ⋅ A Place

(Image credit: Daniel Hopkinson)

Although A Time ⋅ A Place is struck through with the longing of nostalgia, it’s also important to realise that these are contemporary images, pictures of the world as it is now. ‘This book was partly inspired by the challenge that a new generation of architects and designers have to face in their future,’ Holroyd says. ‘As a profession, we need to revisit what we have already and make it exciting again while using the minimum number of resources.’

A Time ⋅ A Place: An exploration of automotive and architectural design

Queens Theatre, Hornchurch and the Citroën CX, 1975, from A Time ⋅ A Place

(Image credit: Daniel Hopkinson)

2024 marks 60 years of the ECOTY award, a period of time far longer than many buildings are designed to function for, let alone cars. Happily, this means the promise of two more volumes to look forward to, covering the periods 1983-2003 and 2004-2024 respectively. Above all, A Time ⋅ A Place shows us that by designing with care, longevity trumps novelty every time.

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