Denys Lasdun and Partners

Denys Lasdun and Partners
   Born in London in 1914, Sir Denys Lasdun studied at the Architectural Association School, London. He was to occupy a unique position, practising in both the prewar and postwar periods. After initially working under Wells Coates (1935–7), he joined the Tecton group, founded by Berthold Lubetkin, until its dissolution in 1948 (from 1946 he was a partner). Here he gained valuable knowledge of influential modern movement buildings, including the flats at High Point I, the Finsbury Health Centre and buildings at London Zoo. In 1949–50 he and Lindsay Drake ran a London office; here in 1960 he founded Denys Lasdun and Partners, which continued since 1978 under the name Denys Lasdun, Redhouse and Softley. Greatly influenced by Le Corbusier, his early work included a house and studio in New Road, Paddington (1937). In spite of the experimental nature of his cluster blocks in Bethnal Green (1954), embodying Corbusian ideology, they managed to propose an alternative to the slab block in their desire to respect the local social and urban context. The luxury flats built in St James’s Place in 1958 again mark a change from the somewhat uninspired 1950s British slab blocks imitative of continental examples. This carefully proportioned composition employed a 3:2 section to create ample living room views while still making the best of expensive city centre land. Despite its adoption of bold reinforced concrete horizontal bands, concern for massing and detail ensured that the block accords sensitively with its Palladian neighbour. Lasdun’s work of the 1960s contrasted with the popular contemporary espousal of technological imagery. His concern for context became particularly apparent in his design for The Royal College of Physicians (1959–61), sited close to Nash’s neo-classical terraces in Regent’s Park. The composition, with its main white rectangular shell raised on piers above the lower sections, together with the purple brick auditorium is respectful of Nash but also invokes sculptural qualities of Nicholas Hawksmoor, so admired by Lasdun. His concern for context is manifest in designs for the University of East Anglia, Norwich (1962–8) where the stepped levels linking interior and exterior spaces wed the stratified spine to the landscape. Lasdun’s ‘urban landscape’ philosophy is further evidenced at The National Theatre in London (1967–76), where the platforms, bridges and social spaces together with the auditoria allowed Lasdun to argue that ‘the whole building could become a theatre’.
   Further reading
    Curtis, William J.R. (1994) Denys Lasdun: Architecture, City, Landscape, London: Phaidon.
   HILARY GRAINGER

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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