Architecture in tension: an examination of the position of the architect in the private and public sectors, focusing on the training and careers of Sir Basil Spence (1907-1976) and Sir Donald Gibson (1908-1991)

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Walford, Sarah Helen
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In the early 1900s tensions began to appear within the architectural profession,\ud as private practitioners struggled to deal with the implications of professional\ud colleagues moving into public sector employment. Sir Basil Spence and Sir\ud Donald Gibson began their architectural training in the mid-1920s and, as\ud tensions between the sectors intensified, Spence entered private practice and\ud Gibson chose to enter the public sector. Each became an exemplar of his\ud chosen sector of the profession and yet both have, until recently, escaped\ud critical attention. The tensions between the public and private sectors of the\ud profession have been acknowledged within the historiography, but not received\ud detailed analysis.\ud This thesis advances the current historiography by presenting an examination\ud of the division between the sectors, focusing on the relationship between the\ud RIBA and the public sector union AASTA and assessing the influence of\ud AASTA on Gibson's Coventry City Architect's Department.\ud Through an examination of archival material, contemporary published material,\ud and buildings, this thesis builds on the work of the Sir Basil Spence Archive\ud Project, adding detailed accounts of his early life, architectural training, and\ud RIBA presidency, presenting new information and correcting certain aspects of\ud the accepted historiography. It likewise presents new information on Gibson's\ud early life and training and his central role in achieving improved status and\ud representation for the public sector. An analysis of selected projects provides a\ud comparative study of their contrasting approaches to architecture: the\ud technically informed, collaborative team-work of Gibson and the individual\ud artistry of Spence.\ud Both men played pivotal roles in reforming the RIBA and in changing public and\ud professional perceptions of the architect, nevertheless, the long lineage and\ud complex nature of tensions within the profession meant that the public/private\ud division was never be bridged and issues of status and representation\ud remained essentially immutable.
  • References (25)
    25 references, page 1 of 3

    1.2. AASTA's Relationship with the Royal Institute of British Architects……………………..........……………............................16 2.1. Basil Urwin Spence: Formative years, training and early Career………………………………………..………………............36 2.1a. Bombay, 1907-1919………………………………………....36 2.1b. Edinburgh, 1919-1931……………………………………....42 2.1c. Early career, 1931-1939……………………………….……61 2.2a. Scotland and Manchester, 1908-1932…………………….73 2.2b. Early career, 1931-1939…………………………………….89

    3.1. 'A Precursor of things to come': The Hilary Haworth Nursery School, Lache, Chester, 1935……….......………..........97 3.1a. The Changing Face of Education………………………………….98 3.1b. The Hilary Haworth Nursery………….........................……….…103 3.1d The Realised Design..................................................................108 3.1e. The Significance of the Building…………………………………..111 3.2. Spence and The Empire Exhibition, Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, 1938 ……………………………………………….........116 4. 4.2. Coventry City Architect's Department, 1939…………….......….133 4.3. AASTA: Political Engagement and Policy on Reconstruction…142 'Propaganda Exhibition for a Civic Survey, and Town

    Exhibition, May 1940…….........................................................150 4.5. City and Cathedral: Planning and Reconstruction……………...164 5.1. A Change in the Public/Private Relationship……………......…..188 6.1. Spence: Sunbury-on-Thames Schemes, 1945-1952………......210 6.2. Gibson: Stonebridge Highway Scheme, Coventry, 1946….…..219 7.1. Prelude to the Building Programme…………………….........…..231 7.2. A New School Architecture………………….………...........…….234 7.3. Spence: Sydenham Girls' Comprehensive School, Dartmouth Road, Sydenham, London, 1956………......…….....247

    7.3a. Development of the Design…………………………….………….248 7.3b. Project Completion……………………………………………...….254 7.4. Gibson: From Coventry to CLASP: The development of a building system……………………………......................…..261 Presidency of the RIBA……………………………………………....….281 8.1. Basil Spence PRIBA........................…………………………...…284 8.1a. The Gathering Crisis: Prelude to Spence's Presidency………..284 8.1b. Spence's Presidency, 1958-1960…………………………………294 8.1c. An Assessment of Spence's Presidency……………………...…330 8.2. Donald Gibson PRIBA………………………………....................334 8.2a From Local Government to Central Government 1958-1964..................................................................................335 8.2b Gibson's Presidency 1964-1965................................................339 8.3. Post-presidency.........................................................................353 The RIBA and the Salaried Sector in the 1970s...............................356 Conclusion..........................................................................................359

    Figure 1. Portrait of Basil Spence, c.1950. (RCAHMS SC1027537)

    Figure 2. Donald Gibson, c.1945. (CHC PA2503/2)

    Figure 3. British Embassy, Rome, 1962. (RCAHMS DP010913)

    Figure 4. Basil Spence, Southern Motors Garage, Causewayside, Edinburgh, 1933-4. (RCAHMS DP004289)

    Figure 5. Spence, student esquisse: 'Entrance to a Great Shipping Company'. (RCAHMS DP011890)

    Figure 6. 'Lismhor': House for Dr King, Easter Belmont Road, Edinburgh. (RCAHMS SC684059)

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