Alum Books Podcast: How Radio Saved Downton Abbey

by Joe McGonegal on March 4, 2014 · 1 comment

in Authors, Design, Podcast, Podcast

Downton Abbey fans have seen scant evidence of 20th-century media in the Masterpiece Classic program, but that may change in coming seasons. Thanks to the founding of BBC Radio in 1927, estates in financial trouble like that which Downton faces in season 4 get a huge boon, says Shundana Yusaf SM ’01.

In this edition of the MIT Alumni Books Podcast, Yusaf, a professor of architecture at the University of Utah, discusses her book Broadcasting Buildings: Architecture on the Wireless. Listen to this podcast9780262026741

Since architecture was a large focus of early BBC productions, the public came to appreciate homes like the Crawleys rather than looting or pillaging them as aristocratic strongholds in a changing world.

“Downton Abbey is a perfect example of houses becoming white elephants,” says Yusaf.

“They became a burden for the families…and architects become champions of conservation, but it puts them in a strange position. Conservation means that you have to promote the protection of properties that in popular culture are seen as symbols of historical injustice. Now you have to revamp them and package them as heritage of the people who have been subjugated.”


In the podcast, Yusaf discusses this topic and others, including the role of media in transforming architecture, how her MIT education made her rethink what one could do with an architecture degree, and how technology is changing the way people visit holy spaces around the world.

Hear more by listening to this podcast interview.

The MIT Alumni Books Podcast presents alumni authors discussing their latest books. It can be found on iTunes and on most other podcast platforms. Help us keep up with recent books or send along names of alumni authors you’d like to hear interviewed.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kathryn James March 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I am not a defender of the British class system. However, I don’t believe that you are subjugated when you have a job (that someone else provides!) so you can have food and shelter and provide food and shelter to your family. A job where you are free to change jobs is not slavery. It is – and has been for a long time – difficult for an individual or even a small group of individuals to start their own business and keep it viable for a long period of time. Though there were revolutions in Western Europe because of dissatisfaction with the aristocracy, I believe the British aristocracy has lasted – even in a reduced firm – is because of its relative benevolence to those it employed.


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