To sum up Lasdun was a fine architect and used his talents in the design of a wide range of building types in both the public and private sectors.

The difference between the St. James flats and the cluster blocks, between Milton Gate and IBM, between the universities of London and Cambridge, is partly cultural but mostly economic, though both have ethical implications.

There is the gap between the European intellectual approach and the English visual approach, but which Lasdun bridged, and indeed he has been described as the most eminent of the few architects to have transformed le Corbusier's legacy to the English way of life. Significantly Lasdun never toyed with PoMo which in English architecture was purely style without the philosophical content of postmodernism, but which ironically is now the accepted way of thinking, of what works for me rather than what is right.

In economic terms the difference between the St. James flats and the cluster blocks is the latter's affluent residents who could afford quality materials, spacious dwellings and location location location! This would not matter so much if the poor were adequately housed, but they have no choice between West End flat or large suburban house, but have to accept the East End flat. Bold architectural forms and Lasdun's emerging interest in strata were employed in both but the necessary good quality concrete detailing and finishes were not affordable by council tenants.

Again with the universities Oxbridge colleges have money for high quality buildings which most universities do not, and students are also being divided between rich and poor by the replacement of grants with loans.

Perhaps only in office design is the quality gap between speculative developments and corporate headquarters closing, and indeed no.1 Gt. St. Helens was the first office building designed to the British Council for Offices specification published in 1997.

Visit Sir Denys Lasdun's buildings; enjoy them - (failing that read about them in the publications listed below, which also contain plans which for copyright reasons could not be used in this feature). But consider also the ethical questions of social justice behind them.

 

Denys Lasdun - Architecture, City, Landscape by William Curtis, 1994, republished in paperback by Phaidon in 1999.

World Architecture Issue no.14 contains two well illustrated articles on Lasdun; Lasdun's Place in the Modern Tradition by William Curtis, and Tradition, Classicism and Myth based on Lasdun's John Dennys Memorial Lecture at the AA in London.

A longer version of this feature appeared in the ACPA Newsletter in Summer 1998, inspired by the Royal Academy exhibition on Denys Lasdun in 1997. Hallfield School was opened to the public to coincide with this, and the Royal College of Physicians has continued to open to the public on Open House Day.

There are many other magazine articles including the following:-

No.1 Gt. St. Helens in Building Design 6 March 1998

Tecton's approach to design in Building Design 10 March 1989

Keeling House in Building Design 10 March 1995 and Architects Journal 10 August 1995

European Investment Bank in Architects Journal 28 September 1995

Obituary in Arcitects Journal 18 January 2001.

 

Return to Contents

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE AUTHOR