Ward's Book of Days.

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MARCH 29th

On this day in history in 1869, was born Edwin Lutyens.

Lutyens was an architect known more for his versatility and eccentricity than for his grand designs.

Edwin Landseer Lutyens was born on 29th March 1869, at London, the 11th child of a family of 14, the son of an army officer who had retired to take up the study of art, with the artist Edwin Landseer, after whom young Lutchens was named. As a child, he rambled in rural Surrey where he grew to appreciate the local architectural traditions of the cottages and barns.

In 1885, Lutyens enrolled at the Royal College of Art, to study architecture. In 1887, he was articled to a firm of architects, led by Ernst George, a follower of the English Arts and Crafts Movement, and in 1889, set up in practice on his own. In his early works, he assimilated the traditional forms of rustic Surrey buildings, but his work changed dramatically when he met the landscape gardener, Gertrude Jekyll, who taught him ‘simplicity of intention and directness of purpose’.

His first work was Munstead Wood, Godalming, Surrey, designed as a home for Gertrude Jekyll. The house could be described as eccentric, and perhaps weird, but the overall effect is aesthetically competent. The tile roofs descend to the tops of the miniscule doors, and gable windows, with leaded lights, are set as strips. A series of country houses followed, in which Lutyens adapted historical styles to the requirements of contemporary domestic habitation. Typical is The Orchards at Munstead, which has huge Tudor chimneys, pagoda style windows and Romanesque arches. Other famous works are Heathcoate, Ilkley, with a symmetrical central block and rectangular wings, and Deanery Gardens, a rambling composition with intermingling architectural elements. He also created several cottages in Cleveleys, Lancashire, in the style of Surrey barns, with whimsical effects such as minstrel galleries and interior courtyards.

In 1910, Lutyens received a commission for the planning of the new Indian capital at Delhi. He designed a central mall with diagonal avenues, after the style of Christopher Wren's plan for London after the Great Fire, creating a garden-city pattern, based on hexagons, divided by tree-lined avenues. His Viceroy's House combines Clasical and Moghul elements, surmounted by a huge dome, with irregular walls of pink and cream sandstone.

After the First World War, Lutyens was knighted and appointed as architect to the Imperial War Graves Commission, for which he designed the Cenotaph, London. This was intended a temporary structure, built out of plaster of paris, but its design proved popular and therefore a permanent stone structure was placed in Whitehall. Lutyens’ greatest war memorial was the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval near Aaras, France, which consists of a classical triumphal arch, in interlocking parts, with vast open spaces, symbolising the loss of millions in a conflict which gained nothing.

Lutyens received many honours, apart from his knighthood. In 1920, he was elected to the Royal Academy, and in 1921, received the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. In 1938, he became president of the Royal Academy. Lutyens died on 1st January 1944, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Recommended reading.

Stamp, Gavin. Edwin Lutyens: Country Houses - From the Archives of "Country Life".
Hussey, Christopher. The Life of Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Brown, Jane. Gardens of a Golden Afternoon: The Story of a Partnership, Edwin Lutyens & Gertrude Jekyll.

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