Of Tennis Courts and Fireplaces: Neurath’s Internment on the Isle of Man and his Politics of Design

  • Michelle HenningEmail author
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 336)


Otto Neurath’s version of functionalism is one that begins with people “as we find them,” a proposition first set out in his 1917 essay “The Converse Taylor System.” Any attempt to redesign the existing furnishings of everyday life must take into account “functions” that go beyond the obvious purpose of objects: functions that are to do with sociability, happiness, familiarity, the love of “coziness,” and that address the diversity and contradictoriness of people. This essay considers how Neurath applied and made use of these ideas about design in 1940s Britain, during and after his internment on the Isle of Man between 1940–1941 and in talks, papers and correspondence from this period. It does not focus on the Isotype Institute, which would usually be considered his principal intervention in design, but on his commentary on everyday objects and practices. In particular it centres on four items – tennis courts, fireplaces, chairs and shoes – and through these elaborates some of the connections between Neurath’s ideas about the design of everyday life, and the significance of everyday practices, and his logical empiricism.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.London School of Film, Media and DesignUniversity of West LondonLondonUK

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