Sir Basil Spence
Basil Urwin Spence
13 August 1907
|19 November 1976 69) (aged
Yaxley, Suffolk, England, UK
|Edinburgh College of Art
|Basil Spence & Partners
| Coventry Cathedral
Hyde Park Barracks
New Zealand parliament extension
Sir Basil Urwin Spence,(13 August 1907 – 19 November 1976) was a Scottish architect, most notably associated with Coventry Cathedral in England and the Beehive in New Zealand, but also responsible for numerous other buildings in the Modernist/Brutalist style.
Spence was born in Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India, the son of Urwin Archibald Spence, an assayer with the Royal Mint. He was educated at the John Connon School, operated by the Bombay Scottish Education Society, and was then sent back to Scotland to attend George Watson's College in Edinburgh from 1919 to 1925. He enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) in 1925, studying architecture, where he secured a maintenance scholarship on the strength of the "unusual brilliance" of his work. He won several prizes at the college, and meanwhile carried out paid work drawing architectural perspectives for practising architects including Leslie Grahame-Thomson, Reginald Fairlie and Frank Mears.
In 1929–1930, he spent a year as an assistant, along with William Kininmonth, in the London office of Sir Edwin Lutyens, whose work was to have a profound influence on Spence's style,where he worked on designs for the Viceroy's House in New Delhi, India. While in London he attended evening classes at the Bartlett School of Architecture under A. E. Richardson. Returning to ECA in 1930 for his final year of studies, he was appointed a junior lecturer, despite the fact that he was still a student. He continued to teach at ECA until 1939.
After graduating in 1931, Kininmonth and Spence set up in practice together, based in a room within the office of Rowand Anderson & Paul (at that time having Arthur Forman Balfour Paul as sole partner), in Rutland Square, Edinburgh. The practice was founded on two residential commissions which Kininmonth had obtained that year. Spence also received commissions to illustrate other architects' work, including the Southside Garage, on Causewayside, Edinburgh, in an Art Deco style (although credited to Spence his name appears nowhere on the official warrant drawings and only appears as a signature on the artist's perspective). [ better source needed ]
In 1934 Spence married, and the Kininmonth & Spence practice merged with Rowand Anderson & Paul. Balfour Paul died in 1938, leaving Kininmonth and Spence in charge of the renamed Rowand Anderson & Paul & Partners. Spence's work was now concentrated on exhibition design, including three pavilions for the 1938 Empire Exhibition in Glasgow, and country houses.
The first two of these, Broughton Place at Broughton near Biggar, and Quothquan in Lanarkshire, were executed in traditional Scottish styles at the client's request. The third was entirely modern. Gribloch was designed for John Colville, grandson of the founder of Colville's Iron Works, and his American wife. It was designed in a modernist Regency style, with assistance from Perry Duncan, an American architect hired by the Colvilles when Spence was too busy with exhibition work to progress the project.
In 1939, Spence was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Camouflage Training and Development Centre of the British Army.He was initially based at Farnham in Surrey. His work included, prior to D-Day, the design of a counterfeit oil terminus at Dover as part of the Operation Fortitude deception plan for the Normandy landings. Spence subsequently took part in the D-Day landings in 1944. He was demobilised in September 1945, having reached the rank of major and been mentioned in despatches twice.
Spence returned to Rowand Anderson & Paul & Partners briefly, before setting up his own practice, Basil Spence & Partners, with Bruce Robertson. He was awarded an OBE in 1948 for his work in exhibition design, work which he continued with the Sea and Ships Pavilion for the 1951 Festival of Britain.That year he opened a London office, moving there permanently from 1953. A second office was opened in 1956 at Canonbury, which became the creative hub of the practice. Spence was External Professor of Architecture at the University of Leeds from 1955 to 1957 and from 1958 to 1960 he was the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Basil Spence & Partners were responsible for the redevelopment and extension of the University of Glasgow's Kelvin Building, which houses its School of Physics and Astronomy. The project was carried out in three phases. The first, 1947–1952, added a new lecture theatre and housed a synchrotron. Teaching laboratories and another lecture theatre were added in the second phase, which was finished in 1959. A third phase was completed in 1966 and included a museum to showcase Lord Kelvin's old experimental apparatus.Some of this is still on display in the Kelvin Building today, with other items having been moved to form part of an exhibit at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.
On 14 November 1940, Coventry's Anglican Cathedral was extensively damaged by German bombing, a year into World War II.
In 1944, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott submitted a design proposal to rebuild the cathedral but this was rejected by the Royal Fine Arts Commission. In 1950, a competition was launched to find the most suitable design from a Commonwealth of Nations architect. Over 200 entries were received, and Spence's radical design was chosen. Work began in 1956 and the structure was completed in 1962.Spence was knighted in 1960 for his work at Coventry, while the cathedral was still being built.
On 23 February 2012 the Royal Mail released a stamp featuring Coventry Cathedral as part of its "Britons of Distinction" series.
In 1959, Spence secured two important commissions, for the British Embassy in Rome (completed 1971), and for the Hyde Park Cavalry Barracks in London (completed 1970). He was also responsible for designing the high-rise Hutchesontown C housing in Glasgow. These were intended to replace the notorious slum tenements in the Gorbals area of the city. A combination of social deprivation and exclusion in the relevant areas, coupled to poor execution of his designs meant that the developments created as many problems as they solved, and led to their demolition in 1993.
Spence was also responsible for modernist buildings on The Canongate in Edinburgh, opposite the new Scottish Parliament and in view of Holyrood Palace. This area is named Brown's Close and was listed in 2008. Other work in the 1960s included the concept design for the executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings in Wellington, nicknamed "The Beehive", and Abbotsinch Airport (now Glasgow Airport).
In 1960, Spence designed Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh's Braid Hills area (based on the same angled fin concept as found at Coventry Cathedral). He also designed Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, which was unveiled in Snowdonia, north Wales, in 1968.
Also in 1964, with support from the Nuffield Foundation, the University of Southampton built a theatre on its campus. Spence worked closely with Sir Richard Southern as consultant for the interior design and layout of the theatre.
The Spence practice was rearranged in 1964, with the Canonbury office being renamed Sir Basil Spence OM RA, and the second London office Spence Bonnington & Collins. The Edinburgh office was also renamed for its partners, Spence Glover & Ferguson. From 1961 to 1968, Spence was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy.
Through the 1970s, Spence continued to work on public and private commissions, universities and offices including Aston University Library and Management Centre. His last work was for an unexecuted cultural centre for Bahrain, which he worked on during illness in 1976. Some of his final commissions were built after his death; for example, his design for the new Glasgow Royal Infirmary was completed in 1981.
Spence died in November 1976 at his home at Yaxley, Suffolk and was buried at nearby Thornham Parva.
His practice, Spence, Ferguson and Glover, continued until 1992 before being disbanded.
In 2006, he was the subject of a BBC Scotland documentary, Rebuilding Basil Spence,which revised his place in 20th-century British architecture and asked why he had been for so long overlooked. In 1993 Spence's Hutchesontown C complex was listed by the international conservation organisation DoCoMoMo as one of Scotland's sixty key monuments of the post-war years, in the same year as it was demolished.
In August 2010, English Heritage recommended that the Spence-designed Sydenham School be given Grade II listed status: the building was due to be demolished to make way for a new building. However the government's decision was that the school was not of sufficient merit to warrant listing.
Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, was a Scottish Victorian architect. Anderson trained in the office of George Gilbert Scott in London before setting up his own practice in Edinburgh in 1860. During the 1860s his main work was small churches in the 'First Pointed' style that is characteristic of Scott's former assistants. By 1880 his practice was designing some of the most prestigious public and private buildings in Scotland.
Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) is one of eleven schools in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Tracing its history back to 1760, it provides higher education in art and design, architecture, history of art, and music disciplines for over three thousand students and is at the forefront of research and research-led teaching in the creative arts, humanities, and creative technologies. ECA comprises five subject areas: School of Art, Reid School of Music, School of Design, School of History of Art, and Edinburgh School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture (ESALA). ECA is mainly located in the Old Town of Edinburgh, overlooking the Grassmarket; the Lauriston Place campus is located in the University of Edinburgh's Central Area Campus, not far from George Square.
Sir Robert Hogg Matthew, OBE FRIBA FRSE was a Scottish architect and a leading proponent of modernism.
Robert William Billings was a British architect and author. He trained as a topographical draughtsman, wrote and illustrated many books early in his career, before concentrating on his architectural practice.
Mortonhall is an area of Edinburgh, Scotland, on the south edge of the city.
Thomas Smith Tait was a Scottish modernist architect. He designed a number of buildings around the world in Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles, notably St. Andrew's House on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, and the pylons for Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer, KBE was a prolific Scottish architect and furniture designer noted for his sensitive restorations of historic houses and castles, for new work in Scots Baronial and Gothic Revival styles, and for promotion of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Sir William Hardie Kininmonth was a Scottish architect whose work mixed a modern style with Scottish vernacular.
Sir John James Burnet was a Scottish Edwardian architect who was noted for a number of prominent buildings in Glasgow and London. He was the son of the architect John Burnet, and later went into partnership with his father, joining an architectural firm which would become an influential force in British Modern architecture in the 20th century.
Sir Edmund "Ted" Happold was a structural engineer and founder of Buro Happold.
Duncanrig Secondary School is a secondary school within the town of East Kilbride in the South Lanarkshire council area in Scotland. The original building was designed in 1953 by the Scottish architect Basil Spence.
The architecture of Scotland includes all human building within the modern borders of Scotland, from the Neolithic era to the present day. The earliest surviving houses go back around 9500 years, and the first villages 6000 years: Skara Brae on the Mainland of Orkney being the earliest preserved example in Europe. Crannogs, roundhouses, each built on an artificial island, date from the Bronze Age and stone buildings called Atlantic roundhouses and larger earthwork hill forts from the Iron Age. The arrival of the Romans from about 71 AD led to the creation of forts like that at Trimontium, and a continuous fortification between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde known as the Antonine Wall, built in the second century AD. Beyond Roman influence, there is evidence of wheelhouses and underground souterrains. After the departure of the Romans there were a series of nucleated hill forts, often utilising major geographical features, as at Dunadd and Dunbarton.
Sir George Washington Browne was a Scottish architect. He was born in Glasgow, and trained there and in London. He spent most of his career in Edinburgh, although his work can be found throughout Scotland and beyond. He was involved in nearly 300 projects, including many public and commercial buildings. One of his most notable buildings is Edinburgh's Central Library, and he became recognised as an authority on library planning and design. He came to national attention after winning a competition to design a bridge over the River Thames in London, although this was never realised. He was the first architect to be elected as President of the Royal Scottish Academy. He also served as President of the Edinburgh Architectural Association, and was instrumental in setting up the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland.
Sir Andrew Thomas Taylor, JP, RCA, FSA, FRIBA was a British architect and councillor. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and practised architecture in Scotland and London before emigrating to Montreal, Quebec, in 1883, where he designed many of the buildings of McGill University. He retired from architecture in 1904 and returned to London, where he served on London County Council from 1908 to 1926. He was knighted for his political services in 1926.
Architecture in modern Scotland encompasses all building in Scotland, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the present day. The most significant architect of the early twentieth century was Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who mixed elements of traditional Scottish architecture with contemporary movements. Estate house design declined in importance in the twentieth century. In the early decades of the century, traditional materials began to give way to cheaper modern ones. After the First World War, Modernism and the office block began to dominate building in the major cities and attempts began to improve the quality of urban housing for the poor, resulted in a massive programme of council house building. The Neo-Gothic style continued in to the twentieth century but the most common forms in this period were plain and massive Neo-Romanesque buildings.
Architecture of Scotland in the Industrial Revolution includes all building in Scotland between the mid-eighteenth century and the end of the nineteenth century. During this period, the country underwent an economic and social transformation as a result of industrialisation, which was reflected in new architectural forms, techniques and scale of building. In the second half of the eighteenth century, Edinburgh was the focus of a classically inspired building boom that reflected the growing wealth and confidence of the capital. Housing often took the form of horizontally divided tenement flats. Some of the leading European architects during this period were Scottish, including Robert Adam and William Chambers.
Church architecture in Scotland incorporates all church building within the modern borders of Scotland, from the earliest Christian structures in the sixth century until the present day. The early Christian churches for which there is evidence are basic masonry-built constructions on the west coast and islands. As Christianity spread, local churches tended to remain much simpler than their English counterparts. By the eighth century more sophisticated ashlar block-built buildings began to be constructed. From the eleventh century, there were larger and more ornate Romanesque buildings, as with Dunfermline Abbey and St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney. From the twelfth century the introduction of new monastic orders led to a boom in ecclesiastical building, often using English and Continental forms. From the thirteenth century elements of the European Gothic style began to appear in Scotland, culminating in buildings such as Glasgow Cathedral and the rebuilt Melrose Abbey. Renaissance influences can be seen in a move to a low-massive style that was probably influenced by contacts with Italy and the Netherlands.
Arthur Forman Balfour Paul was a Scottish architect operating largely in the early 20th century.
William Gordon Dey FRIBA (1911-1997) was a Scottish architect. He was a partner in the influential firm of Gordon & Dey which specialised in college buildings and had a long-running working relationship with Moray House School of Education.
Keith New was a stained glass artist and craftsman during his early career and a well-regarded teacher and landscape painter in later life. After studying at the Royal College of Art (RCA) New returned there, heading the RCA Stained Glass Department from 1955-1958. He served as Head of Art & Design at the Central School of Art from 1957-1964. He was Head of Foundation Studies at Kingston School of Art from 1968-1991. In 1965 New became a Brother of the Art Workers Guild.