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Sir Frederick Gibberd

© Richard J Biggins / Frederick Gibberd Partnership

followed by a chronology of his buildings

Sir Frederick Gibberd was one of Britain's most respected architect planners of the twentieth century, whose work has been an influence on generations of post-war designers.

He was born in 1908 in Warwickshire and studied at the Birmingham School of Architecture, and began in private practice as an architect in 1930. The commission to design Pullman Court when Gibberd was only 23 years old, came a year later and established his reputation as a highly successful architect.

Whilst a student he met FRS Yorke, who was later to found the architectural firm Yorke Rosenberg and Mardell (now better known as YRM). They collaborated on a number of publications including the influential book 'The Modern Flat' which was published in 1937 and featured the then newly completed Pullman Court as well as many other European examples.

With the success of this scheme, Gibberd became established as the 'flat' architect and went on to build several other schemes including Park Court at Penge and Ellington Court at Southgate, and continued to practice until the outbreak of the Second World War

He was a member of MARS (The Modern Architectural Research Society) whose membership comprised most of the figures closely associated with the development of the modern movement in Britain, including Wells Coates, Berthold Lubetkin, and Serge Chermayeff.

Unfit for military service during the Second World War he became the principal of the Architectural Association which continued the training of students throughout the war period. At the some time he studied town planning and became a member of the town planning institute.

One of his first commissions on resuming private practice was for the design of pre-fabricated houses for the British Iron and Steel Federation. These mass-produced units were provided a speedy answer to the acute post war housing shortage and it is testament to the quality of their design and construction that many are still in use today.

In 1947 Gibberd was appointed as planner for the new town of Harlow in Essex, now widely regarded as one of the most successful schemes of the period. This was to occupy much of his time for the rest of his life and he made his home in Harlow. Here he was able to indulge his passion for landscape design in the creation of his famous garden.

The design of flats remained an important part of the work of his office, including blocks in Hackney and in the East End of London. At Harlow he designed 'The Lawns' in 1951, the first tower block to be constructed in Britain and now a listed building, along with the Water Gardens, built 10 years later.

For the Festival of Britain in 1951 he proposed the idea that a model housing scheme be built in one of the heavily bombed areas of the East End at Poplar. This would be a lasting exhibit in contrast to the other temporary buildings being erected for the event. Collaborating with a number of other leading architects, he designed the Chrisp Street shopping area and market of the Lansbury Estate. He received the honour of Commander of the British Empire in 1954 for his services to architecture and planning.

At the same time the practice was appointed to prepare the development plan for the new London Airport at Heathrow. The success of what has become one of the world's busiest airports, handling up to 60 million passengers annually, exceeded all expectations. Gibberd was responsible for the design of all the major structures within the main part of the site, some of which have now been listed.

Perhaps his most famous building is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool , won in an open competition and completed in 1967. The distinctive 'Crown of Thorns' has become an unmistakable part of the Liverpool scene and an important symbol of the city. The circular interior is bathed in coloured light representing the Trinity from massive lantern windows designed by John Piper and Patrick Rentyens. Sir Frederick was knighted for his services to architecture in 1967.

Frederick Gibberd Partnership

Another significant competition-win in the 1970's was the world famous London Central Mosque on the western edge of Regent's Park. As at Pullman Court, the new buildings were carefully planned to retain as many of the existing mature trees as possible.

Frederick Gibberd Partnership

As well as buildings the practice was responsible for several nationally important landscape projects including Kielder Water, the largest manmade lake in Europe and Dinorwic, the hydro-electric power station constructed inside a mountain in the Snowdonia National Park.

One of the last buildings designed by Sir Frederick was the headquarters of Coutts & Co. at the Strand. This unique project involved the retention of the surviving portions of John Nash's 'West Strand Improvement Block' with the construction of the first modern atrium building in the UK Completed in 1978, the building was a technically innovative solution to the problem of integrating old and new work. The completed headquarters is listed Grade II*.

A matter of much pride to Sir Frederick was the recognition that his work received in his own lifetime, with so many of his buildings having been listed, it was particularly gratifying that his first major commission at Pullman Court should be honoured in this way when it was listed Grade II in 1981. (It was later re-classified as Grade II*)

Having designed or been responsible for over a thousand buildings, Sir Frederick retired in 1978. He continued to act as a Consultant to the practice which still carries his name and was actively involved in design work up until his death in 1984 at the age of 76.

© Richard J Biggins / Frederick Gibberd Partnership

 

a list of buildings by Frederick Gibberd:

1933-1936, Pullman Court, Streatham, London

1937-1939, Macclesfield Nurses Home, Cheshire, England

1945-1949, Somerfield Estate, Hackney, London

1946-1963, Nuneation Town Centre, Warwickshire, England

1949-1951, Lansbury Market, London

1950-1969, Terminal Buildings, Heathrow Airport, near London

1952, Market Square, Harlow, Essex, England

1953-1961, Ulster Hospital, Belfast

1956, Bath Technical College, Somerset, England

1956-1968, Civic Center, Saint Albans, Hertfordshire, England

1958, Derwent Reservoir, Durham and Northumberland, England

1959-1969, Civic Centre, Donaster, Yorkshire, England

1960-1967, Roman Catholic Cathedral, Liverpool, England

1962-1966, Douai Abbey, Berkshire, England

1964, Saint George's Chapel, Heathrow Airport, near London

1964-1968, Didcot Power Station, Berkshire, England

1966-1975, Arundel Great Court, The Strand

1968-1975, Inter-Conrinental Hotel, Hyde Park Corner; London

1970-1977, London Central Mosque

 

 

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