|Sir Giles Gilbert Scott|
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1933, as President-elect of RIBA.
|Name||Sir Giles Gilbert Scott|
|Birth date||9 November 1880|
|Date of death||8 February 1960 (aged 79)|
|Place of death||London|
|Buildings||Battersea Power Station, Liverpool Cathedral|
He came from a family of architects. He was the son of George Gilbert Scott, Jr., the grandson of Sir George Gilbert Scott, a nephew of John Oldrid Scott, and brother of Adrian Gilbert Scott. Architect Richard Gilbert Scott was his son. Scott was noted for his blending of Gothic tradition with modernism, making what might have been functionally designed buildings into popular landmarks.
Born in London, Scott was the third son of George Gilbert Scott, Jr. When he was three, his father was declared as being of unsound mind and consequently his sons saw little of their father. Giles Gilbert Scott claimed to remember only seeing his father twice in his life. A bequest from his uncle in 1889 gave him ownership of Hollis Street Farm, near Ninfield, Sussex, with a life tenancy to his mother. It was here that they came to escape the occasional violent outbursts of his father.
Scott was sent to Beaumont College on the recommendation of his father, not because of any educational significance but because he admired the buildings of its preparatory school, the work of J. F. Bentley.Scott spent his school holidays 'steeple-chasing' with his mother, which meant riding round Sussex on bicycles to look at interesting church architecture. Giles Gilbert Scott and his siblings were raised as Roman Catholics by their mother.
Scott's mother decided that Giles and his brother, Adrian, should become architects and he was articled to Temple Lushington Moore in 1899 for three years. Moore, who had been a pupil of Scott's father, actually worked at home while Scott worked in his office, which allowed Scott to develop his own architectural knowledge of his father's designs - which he regarded as the work of a genius, and superior to those of his grandfather (the latter judgment not shared by most architectural commentators).
Scott is perhaps best-known for his work on Liverpool Cathedral. When the competition for a 'Design for a twentieth century cathedral' was announced in 1902, he began work on the drawings at his home in Battersea in his spare time. He was surprised to be one of the five architects selected for the second round of the competition (his employer's designs were rejected) and even more surprised to win, in 1903.
Because of these factors, the Dean and Chapter decided that Scott should work with George Frederick Bodley on the new Cathedral. However, they did not get on, with Scott complaining that Bodley had taken on too much other work. Scott was on the verge of resigning when Bodley died suddenly in 1907. This allowed Scott to continue single-handed and he immediately redesigned the Lady Chapel (one of the parts then under construction) more in the style he favoured.
In 1910 Scott realised that he was not happy with the main design, which looked like a traditional Gothic cathedral in the style originated in the previous century. He persuaded the cathedral committee to let him start all over again (a difficult decision, as some of the stonework had already been erected) and redesigned it as a simpler and more symmetrical building with a single massive central tower instead of the original proposal for twin towers.
With construction halted temporarily in the First World War and other delays, the building of the Cathedral lasted the whole of Scott's life and he remained involved in the project until his death, refining the design as he went. He designed every aspect of the building down to the fine details. With the choir and the first pair of transepts completed, the cathedral was consecrated in 1924. The tower was finished in 1942 but the first bay of the Nave was not completed until 1961, after Scott had died. The Cathedral was finished in 1978.
While Scott was feuding with Bodley in Liverpool, he managed to design and see built his first complete church. This was the Church of the Annunciation, a Roman Catholic church in Bournemouth, in which he made a high transept similar to that he wanted at Liverpool. His work on another new Roman Catholic Church at Sheringham, Norfolk showed his preference for simple Gothic frontages. Other churches built by Scott at this time, at Ramsey on the Isle of Man, Northfleet in Kent and Stoneycroft in Liverpool, show the development of his style. While working in Liverpool, Scott met and married Louise Wallbank Hughes, who was a receptionist at the Adelphi Hotel; his mother was reportedly displeased to learn that she was a Protestant.
As Liverpool Cathedral rose Scott's fame rose too, and he began to secure commissions for secular buildings. One of the first was for Clare College, Cambridge, Memorial Court, which was in a neo-Georgian style on the west bank of the River Cam. This style was also used for a house he designed for himself in Clarendon Place, Paddington in 1924. Scott rarely designed residential buildings but when he did, they could be successful as the Cropthorne Court mansion block on Maida Vale in London, where the frontage juts out in diagonals in order to reduce the need for lightwells.
Scott continued working on churches during the inter-war years. Shortly after his work on the nave at Downside Abbey he was commissioned to design the small Roman Catholic church of Our Lady and St Alphege, Oldfield Park, Bath, Somerset, the first part of which was completed in 1929. The design was inspired by the church of St Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Scott's distillation of the main elements of that large and ancient church into the much smaller Bath parish church has been described as "a delight" which "cannot fail to astonish". Some 25 years later he wrote "The church was my first essay into the Romanesque style of architecture. It has always been one of my favourite works". On the capital of one of the pillars beneath the west gallery W. D. Gough carved a representation of the architect, and a shield inscribed "AEGIDIO ARCHITECTO" (By Giles the Architect) - possibly the only depiction of Scott in stone.
By far Scott's most ubiquitous design was for the General Post Office. He was one of three architects invited by the Royal Fine Arts Commission to submit designs for new telephone kiosks. The invitation came at the time Scott was made a trustee of Sir John Soane's Museum. His design in the classical style, but topped with a dome reminiscent of Soane's self-designed mausoleum in St Pancras' Old Churchyard, London, won favour. It was put into production in cast iron as the GPO's "Kiosk no. 2" or "K2". Later designs adapted the same general look for mass-production: the Jubilee kiosk, introduced for King George V's silver jubilee in 1935 and known as the K6 eventually became a fixture in almost every town and village.
The London Power Company had commissioned a new electricity generating station at Battersea and in 1930 commissioned Scott as a consultant to make the inevitably massive architecture more appealing. Scott chose external bricks and put some detailing on the sheer walls, then remodelled the four corner chimneys so that they resembled classical columns. Battersea Power Station, completed in 1933 but disused since 1982, remains one of the most conspicuous industrial buildings in London.
In Cambridge, next to Clare Memorial Court, Scott designed a matching library for the University of Cambridge. He placed two six-storey courtyards in parallel with a twelve-storey squat tower in the centre, and linked the windows vertically to the bookstacks.
Perhaps most iconically, however, Sir Giles also entered (and won) the 1924 competition to design a telephone kiosk that would be acceptable to the London Metropolitan Boroughs, which had hitherto rejected the previous design. No tourist visit to London is complete without a picture of one of Sir Giles's red telephone boxes.
In the early 1930s Scott's reputation was at its height, and he was chosen as President of the Royal Institute of British Architects for 1933, its centenary year (having already been awarded the RIBA's prestigious Royal Gold Medal in 1925). In his inaugural address he criticised both the diehard traditionalist and the diehard modernist, calling for a "middle line" in which architects accepted new methods of construction while seeking to always place the human element in architecture.
1937-40 New Bodelian library Broad St Oxford. Scott was set the complex remit of designing an aesthetically pleasing yet fully functional modern library holding at its core a vast internal muti floor bookstack. Pevsner's withering assessment that "The building is neither one thing nor the other" illustrates the difficulty of Scott's remit. Over the years the building has been altered-to its great detriment-false walls-the enclosure of the front apron where employees could sit. Its once grand King George entrance (precisely in line with the Clarendon and Old Bodelian entrances is now a fire escape and disabled access ramps have blighted the appearance.
The outside has many fine reliefs and cartouches. Inside there are many interesting features-the aluminium windows are taken straight from the red phone box-grand internal staircases with balustrades, a vast ground floor hallway, a pegasus cartouche to house a clock, art deco doors,fixtures and fittings. The former PPE room, now The Special Collections resource room is particularly of note. Grand in size and scale and decorated in a unique Native American natural wood.
Sadly the other reading rooms are currently derelict as plans to radically alter the internal design of the building in 2010 go ahead.
Scott's search for the 'middle line' caused him difficulties when he was appointed as architect for the new Coventry Cathedral in 1942. Pressured by the new Bishop of Coventry for a modern design and by the Royal Fine Arts Commission for a recreation of the old cathedral, he was criticised for trying to compromise between the two and designing a building that was neither fish nor fowl. Unable to reconcile these differences Scott resigned in 1947; a competition was held and won by Sir Basil Spence with an uncompromisingly modern design.
After the Commons chamber of the Palace of Westminster was destroyed by bombs in 1941, Scott was appointed in 1944 to rebuild it. Here he was hemmed in entirely by the surviving building, but was entirely of the view that the new chamber should be congruent with the old as anything else would clash with the Gothic style of Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. This view found favour with Winston Churchill who observed "We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us". In a debate on January 25, 1945 the House of Commons approved his choice by 121 to 21 on a free vote.
After the immediate rush for building work caused by war damage had died down, Scott put a new roof on the Guildhall in the City of London and designed modernistic brick offices for the Corporation just to the north. Despite having opposed placing heavily industrial buildings in the centre of cities, he accepted a commission to build Bankside Power Station on the bank of the River Thames in Southwark, where he built on what he had learnt at Battersea and gathered all the flues into a single tower. This building was converted in the late 1990s into Tate Modern art gallery.
Scott continued to receive commissions for religious buildings. At Preston he built a Roman Catholic church which is notable for an unusually long and repetitive nave. His Carmelite Church in Kensington used transverse concrete arches to fill a difficult site (the church replaced another lost in the war).
Scott remained working into his late 70s. He was working on designs for the Roman Catholic Church of Christ the King, Plymouth, when he contracted lung cancer. He took the designs into University College Hospital, where he continued to revise them until his death on February 9, 1960, aged 79.
He is buried with his wife outside the main entrance to Liverpool Cathedral. A requiem mass for Scott was said by Father Patrick Casey at St. James Roman Catholic Church, Spanish Place, London, on February 17, 1960.
A comprehensive list of Giles Gilbert Scott's designs: