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The reputation of architects at times of change

Dr Timothy Brittain-Caitlin – Kent School of Architecture


For the last ten years I have been working on a series of projects that all fall within the overall category of ‘the reputation of architects at times of change’. This began with my detailed investigation into the English architects whose careers were thrown off course by the success of the gothic revival from the 1840s. My book The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century, published by Spire Books in 2008, provides a richly illustrated depiction of the way in which the gothic revival and its protagonists swept across the country in a remarkably short period, in effect terminating or diverting the working lives of many of their predecessors.

Between 2008 and 2012 I stared to work on studies of architects whose contribution to architecture and the profession was not matched by public acclaim or financial success. The reasons for this are varied: sometimes they did not have the drive to become commercially or socially successful; some narrowly failed to win competitions, or did win but the project remained unbuilt. Sometimes they worked in an unfashionable style; sometimes they were difficult characters with too many enemies. My first detailed study was of the mainly Edwardian architect Horace Field, whose designs for Lloyds Bank branches that resembled Restoration-era merchants’ houses eventually transformed the appearance of the interwar English high street, but whose successful early career with high-profile clients, houses and offices seemed to fizzle out rapidly after the First World War. I have also written about the ‘architects’ architect’ Leonard Manasseh, an influential and popular teacher at the Architectural Association in the 1950s and architect of the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and the former Rutherford School in Marylebone.

In Spring 2014 The MIT Press is publishing my book Bleak Houses: Disappointment and Failure in Architecture, which provides many examples of ‘loser’ architects, and which proposes an explanation for why certain types of architecture never receive the type of critique and appreciation that they deserve.

I have been writing for The World of Interiors for 25 years, and contribute to many other magazines and journals, and I often discuss these matters there.


Brittain-Catlin, Timothy (2014) Bleak Houses: Disappointment and Failure in Architecture. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass and London, UK, 192 pp. ISBN 9780262026697.

Brittain-Catlin, Timothy (2011) ‘Downward trajectory: towards a theory of failure’. arq: Architectural Research Quarterly, 15 (02). pp. 139-147.

Brittain-Catlin, Timothy (2010) ‘Horace Field and Lloyds Bank’. Architectural History, 53. pp. 271-294. ISSN 0066-622X.

Brittain-Catlin, Timothy (2010) Leonard Manasseh & Partners. 20th Century Architects. RIBA Publishing / English Heritage / The Twentieth Century Society, London, 162 pp. ISBN 9781859463680

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