Thomas Smith Tait
|Born||18 June 1882|
|Died||18 July 1954|
the Cottage Hospital, Aberfeldy
|Alma mater||Glasgow School of Art; Royal Academy Schools|
|Awards||RIBA Gold Medal, Best Building of 1933|
|Practice||John Burnet & Partners; Burnet, Tait & Lorne|
|Buildings||Selfridges, Oxford Street; the Daily Telegraph Building, Fleet Street; Unilever House, Blackfriars; Sydney Harbour Bridge.|
Thomas Smith Tait (1882–1954) was a prominent Scottish modernist architect. He designed a number of buildings around the world in Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles, notably St. Andrew's House (the headquarters of the Scottish Government) on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, and the pylons for Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Modern architecture, or modernist architecture was based upon new and innovative technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete; the idea that form should follow function; an embrace of minimalism; and a rejection of ornament. It emerged in the first half of the 20th century and became dominant after World War II until the 1980s, when it was gradually replaced as the principal style for institutional and corporate buildings by postmodern architecture.
Art Deco, sometimes referred to as Deco, is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France just before World War I. Art Deco influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, movie theatres, trains, ocean liners, and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners. It took its name, short for Arts Décoratifs, from the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes held in Paris in 1925. It combined modern styles with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. During its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress.
Streamline Moderne is an international style of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s. It was inspired by aerodynamic design. Streamline architecture emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements. In industrial design, it was used in railroad locomotives, telephones, toasters, buses, appliances, and other devices to give the impression of sleekness and modernity.
Born in 1882 in Paisley, the son of a master stonemason, he was educated at the John Neilson Institution, following which he entered apprenticeship as an architect with James Donald in Paisley. Tait went on to Glasgow School of Art where he studied under the Beaux Arts teacher Eugene Bourdon. He travelled extensively in Europe between 1904 and 1905, before settling in London where he joined the prestigious architectural practice of Sir John James Burnet.
Paisley is a town situated in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. Located on the northern edge of the Gleniffer Braes, the town borders the city of Glasgow to the east, and straddles the banks of the White Cart Water, a tributary of the River Clyde.
The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) is Scotland's only public, self-governing art school offering undergraduate degrees; post-graduate awards and PhD's in architecture, fine art and design.
Beaux-Artsarchitecture was the academic architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, particularly from the 1830s to the end of the 19th century. It drew upon the principles of French neoclassicism, but also incorporated Gothic and Renaissance elements, and used modern materials, such as iron and glass. It was an important style in France until the end of the 19th century. It also had a strong influence on architecture in the United States, because of the many prominent American architects who studied at the Beaux-Arts, including Henry Hobson Richardson, John Galen Howard, Daniel Burnham, and Louis Sullivan.
In 1910 he married Constance Hardy, the daughter of a London stationmaster, and they set up home at 26 Holyoake Walk in Ealing.Together they had three sons; the eldest, Gordon, born in 1912, later became an architect himself, and worked with his father on the designs for the Empire Exhibition, Scotland 1938 held in Glasgow. In June 1913 Tait sat and passed the RIBA's qualifying exam and was admitted ARIBA in September 1913, with the influential backing of Burnet, Theodore Fyfe and Herbert Vaughan Lanchester as proposers.
Ealing is a district of west London, England, located 7.9 miles (12.7 km) west of Charing Cross. It is the administrative centre of the London Borough of Ealing, and identified as a major metropolitan centre in the London Plan.
Gordon Thomas Tait was a British architect, active in London.
David Theodore Fyfe, known simply as Theodore Fyfe, was a Scottish architect, he is widely known as Arthur Evans’s architect during the first five excavations at the Palace of Knossos from 1900 to 1904.
His former dwelling at Gates House, Wyldes Close, Hampstead Garden Suburb London NW11 has been marked with a Blue Plaque by English Heritage.
Hampstead Garden Suburb is an elevated suburb, north of Hampstead, west of Highgate and east of Golders Green. It is an example of early twentieth-century domestic architecture and town planning in the London Borough of Barnet in northwest London. The master plan was prepared by Barry Parker and Sir Raymond Unwin. Comprising just over 5,000 properties, and home to around 13,000 people, undivided houses of high value with individual gardens are a key feature. The area is dotted with landscaped garden squares or communal parks.
English Heritage is a charity that manages over 400 historic monuments, buildings and places. These include prehistoric sites, medieval castles, Roman forts and country houses. The charity states that it uses these properties to ‘bring the story of England to life for over 10 million people each year’.
In 1902, Tait was recruited by the architecture firm John Burnet & Son and worked under the founder's son, John James Burnet.
Sir John James Burnet, was a Scottish Edwardian architect who was noted for a number of prominent buildings in Glasgow, Scotland and London, England. 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.
In 1905, Burnet was appointed to design new galleries at the British Museum in London. Burnet opened a London office at 1 Montague Place, calling it simply John J Burnet, and took Tait with him as his personal assistant.
The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire. It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. It was the first public national museum in the world.
By 1910, Tait was a leading member of Burnet's staff, and played an important part in the design of the Kodak Building in London, considered to be among the first examples of modern architecture in the United Kingdom and which was highly influential on the design of many commercial buildings of the time.
Following his marriage in 1910, Tait took on extra work at a rival practice, Trehearne and Norman, assisting in the facade design of several commercial buildings on Kingsway and Aldwych. He took this work without the knowledge of Burnet, and when Burnet learned of Tait's moonlighting in 1914, the two fell out. Tait suddenly left London for New York, leaving his wife and son Gordon at home, to work as an assistant with Donn Barber.
Tait soon returned to London and took a job as chief draughtsman to Trehearne & Norman on further Kingsway buildings. Between 1915 and 1918, Tait and Burnet became reconciled and collaborated on a number of projects, culminating in Tait's return to Burnet's practice in 1918 as a partner. The firm was renamed Sir John Burnet & Partners.
Due to ill health, Burnet himself grew less active in the partnership, and Tait's role increased. In 1925 Tait was made a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).Tait's growing reputation resulted in many new commissions both in the UK and internationally, including work in London, South Africa, Australia and Egypt. In 1927-8 he was employed by the Crittall window factory to build their works village Silver End in Essex in the Art Deco style.
In 1930, another Scottish architect, Francis Lorne became a partner in the firm, and under the name Burnet, Tait and Lorne, the practice became one of the most influential architects' firms in Britain.
Tait and Lorne began to pursue a more Modernist architectural direction, and their work on the Royal Masonic Hospital at Ravenscourt (1930-3) won the RIBA Gold Medal for the best building of 1933. While the commissions slowed down during economic downturn of the early 1930s, they used the available time to publish a highly influential book, The Information Book of Sir John Burnet, Tait & Lorne (1933).In 1936 Sir Cecil M Weir, convenor of the Scottish Development Council, appointed him Chief Architect of the Empire Exhibition, Scotland 1938, selecting Bellahouston Park in Glasgow as the site, conceiving the master-plan and designing most of its 100 buildings assisted by a panel of young architects chosen by him. It attracted 12.8 million visitors.
The outbreak of the Second World War cut Tait's career prematurely short. St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, (built for the former Scottish Office and from 1999 the headquarters of the Scottish Government) was completed shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939, leaving much of the proposed interior decoration incomplete. From 1940 to 1942 he worked as Director of Standardisation at the Ministry of Works. He retired from the partnership in 1952, and the practice was taken on by his eldest son, Gordon. Thomas Tait continued in the capacity of consultant to the firm until his death in 1954 at the age of 72.A blue plaque commemorates Tait at CGates House, Wyldes Close in Hampstead.
Tait's architectural works were mostly executed as an employee of John Burnet & Son, or as a partner in Sir John Burnet & Partners, later Burnet, Tait & Lorne.
Tait is credited with the design of a number of notable buildings in London and internationally, including: Adelaide House on the River Thames, London; the Daily Telegraph Building in Fleet Street office (1927-8), London; later phases of the Selfridges building (1926-9), Oxford Street, London; St Andrew's House in Edinburgh; and the pylons for Sydney Harbour Bridge.Tait collaborated with James Lomax-Simpson on the design and construction of Unilever House (1930–33) near Blackfriars Bridge, London.
Tait was also involved in judging a number of architectural competitions, acting as the assessor for competitions to design the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea, and Kirkcaldy Town Hall.
Following the First World War, he won a number of commissions to design war memorials, often in collaboration with sculptors such as Charles Sargeant Jagger. Both Tait and Jagger collaborated on the Great Western Railway War Memorial which stands today in Paddington Station, London (1992),and the (now destroyed) Port Tewfik War Memorial near Suez, Egypt.
Tait's acclaimed Royal Masonic Hospital at Ravenscourt Park in London (later the Ravenscourt Park Hospital) won him a RIBA award for the best building of 1933. This Moderne brick edifice features nautical-style curved sun porches and balconies, elongated sculpted figures atop the door pilaster. It has been likened to Willem Marinus Dudok's Hilversum Town Hall of 1931.
Burnet, Tait & Lorne continued to build in the curved Streamline Moderne style, as evidenced in Tait's whitewashed Hawkhead Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Paisley (1932), which also features curved, nautical balconies and railings, streamlined corners and horizontal bands.
Tait is perhaps best remembered for his contributions to the design and master planning for the Empire Exhibition, Scotland 1938, held in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow. Tait was appointed as head of a team of nine architects, which included Basil Spence and Jack Coia. Tait's vision was of a modernist, utopian future, and the Empire Exhibition was the largest collection of modern architecture built in United Kingdom in the first half of the 20th century. Dominating the whole exhibition was "The Tower of Empire", designed by Tait himself. The 300-feet-high tower was erected on the summit of the hill in the centre of the park and had three observation balconies, each capable of carrying 200 people.
In addition to public buildings, Tait is credited with a number of private houses in the Art Deco Moderne style, such as the terrace of houses in St John's Wood (1934–1936),or the house in Maida Vale which he designed for the Marques and Marquesa de Casa Maury (1937–1938).
Tait is also credited with the design of Chelsea House, built 1934, in Belgravia. This rotunda-shaped building stands on the corner of Lowndes Street and Cadogan Place on the former site of the 1874 home of the Earl of Cadogan, also called Chelsea House.
Tait took on the design of his own house in Newbury, Berkshire (1929). It is built in a Modernist ziggurat form and finished in white cement, with emerald green Art Deco-style casement windows, front door and balustrade.
Besides commissions for individual private dwellings, Tait was also commissioned to design a housing estate at Silver End, Essex, for the industrialist Francis Henry Crittall as part of his model village project in 1928. The houses are white with flat roofs and steel window frames.
In 1939 the British Government passed the Camps Actwhich established the National Camps Corporation as a body to design and build residential camps for young people that could provide opportunities for outdoor learning and also act as evacuation centres in the event of War. Tait was responsible for the design of the buildings which included accommodation for over 200 children and staff, recreational halls, washblocks and a dining hall/kitchen complex. These Camps were repilicated in over 30 different rural locations around the country. During the war years, these acted as safe refuges for city children from Nazi bombing raids. After the war the ownership of the sites was transferred to the local authorities. Over the years most of these sites have been lost, but the best preserved example today is Sayers Croft which is located at Ewhurst, Surrey. The dining hall and kitchen complex is protected as a Grade II listed building because of the importance of Tait's work, and because of the painted murals depicting the life of the evacuees.
Sir Basil Urwin Spence, OM, OBE, RA 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.
The year 1933 in architecture involved some significant architectural events and new buildings.
The year 1932 in architecture involved some significant events.
Gillespie, Kidd & Coia were a Scottish architectural firm famous for their application of modernism in churches and universities, as well as at St Peter's Seminary in Cardross. Though founded in 1927, it is for their work in the post-war period that they are best known. The firm was wound up in 1987.
Herbert James Rowse was an English architect. Born in Liverpool and a student of Charles Reilly at the Liverpool University School of Architecture, Rowse opened an architectural practice in the city. Although he designed major buildings for other cities, Rowse is best known for his work in Liverpool, including India Buildings, the entrances to and ventilation towers of the Mersey Tunnel ("Queensway"), and the Philharmonic Hall. He designed in a range of styles, from neoclassical to Art Deco, generally with a strong American influence.
St. Andrew's House (SAH), on the southern flank of Calton Hill, Edinburgh, is the headquarters building of the Scottish Government. The building stands on the site of the former Calton Jail. Today, the turreted Governor's House is all that remains of the former prison, next to the Old Calton Burial Ground and Political Martyrs' Monument.
Charles Bruce Dellit was an Australian architect who pioneered the Art Deco style in Australia. He was generally known as Bruce Dellit.
John Burnet was a Scottish architect who lived and practised in Glasgow. He was born the son of soldier and trained initially as a carpenter, before becoming a Clerk of Works. He rose to prominence in the mid-1850s.
Tait Tower was a tower in the art deco style constructed at the summit of Ibrox Hill in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow in Scotland as part of the Empire Exhibition, Scotland 1938.
Empire Exhibition, Scotland 1938 was an international exposition held at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, from May to December 1938.
William Bryce Binnie FRIBA was a Scottish architect. He trained in Scotland but practiced initially in New York and then London. During the First World War he served with the Black Watch and was decorated for bravery. Afterwards he worked for the Imperial War Graves Commission until 1927, when he returned to private practice in London.
Unilever House is a Grade II listed office building in the Neoclassical Art Deco style, located on New Bridge Street, Victoria Embankment in Blackfriars, London. The building has a tall, curving frontage which overlooks Blackfriars Bridge on the north bank of the River Thames.
The Beresford is an ex-hotel situated at 460 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, Scotland. It opened in 1938 to provide accommodation for those attending the city's Empire Exhibition and was often described as Glasgow's first skyscraper, being the tallest building erected in Glasgow between the two world wars, at 10 storeys high. It is one of the city's most notable examples of Art Deco/Streamline Moderne architecture, and is protected as a category B listed building.
Edith Mary Wardlaw Burnet Hughes HonFRIAS was a Scottish architect, and is considered Britain's first practising woman architect, having established her own architecture firm in 1920.
The Luma Tower is a residential building and former factory in the Greater Govan area of Glasgow, Scotland. It is famous as one of the best preserved examples of Art Deco architecture in the city. It has been protected as a category B listed building since 1988. Designed by Scottish architect Cornelius Armour, who was the in-house architect of the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, the style is known as Streamline Moderne which was the last phase of the Art Deco era in the 1930s.
Gerald Callcott Horsley was a British architect and draughtsman who lived in London.
The Royal Masonic Hospital was a hospital in the Ravenscourt Park area of Hammersmith, west London, built and opened in 1933. The grade II* listed building became the Ravenscourt Park Hospital in 2002, but this closed in 2006. In ay 2015 the hospital was expected to reopen in 2017 as the 150-bed London International Hospital, a centre for medical tourism. However, London International Hospital Limited commenced winding up proceedings on 30 March 2017, and was dissolved on 28 March 2018, owing £15 million to the Imperial College Healthcare Trust.
John Keppie was a Glasgow architect and artist. From an early age he was a close friend of Edward Atkinson Hornel and would often bring in New Year with him in Kirkcudbright. Within the architectural profession, he was closest to John Archibald Campbell, and is credited with training Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
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