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Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer

A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

James Stevens Curl,

Susan Wilson

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869–1944) English architect 

held by some as the greatest since Wren. He began his career in the office of George and Peto, where he met Herbert Baker. He set up his own practice (1889), and designed the house, gardens, and stables at Crooksbury, Surrey, influenced by works of George, Norman Shaw, and Philip Webb. Indeed, his early houses were pleasant Arts-and-Crafts buildings incorporating Surrey vernacular elements, e.g. steeply pitched tiled roofs, tall brick chimneys, and casement-windows with leaded lights, but he began to achieve real distinction shortly after he met and began to collaborate with Jekyll, the artist and gardener, who was to work with him on the design of many gardens over the next two decades. She commissioned Munstead Wood, Munstead, Surrey (1896–9), where Lutyens’s use of finely crafted traditional building-materials and the subtle relationship between house and garden demonstrate a new sensitivity prompted by her Ruskin-inspired beliefs. Among his best houses of the late-Victorian period are Fulbrook, near Elstead (1897–9), Orchards, Munstead, near Godalming (1897–9), both in Surrey, and Roseneath, Dumbartonshire, Scotland (1898). At Les Bois des Moutiers, Varengeville-sur-Mer, France (1897–8), certain elements, such as the tall windows, pre-empted some of Mackintosh’s work, notably the Library windows at the Glasgow School of Art (1907–9).

With Tigbourne Court, Witley, Surrey (1899–1901), a new theme of Classically composed formal symmetry began to emerge. He again used vernacular motifs at Deanery Garden, Sonning, Berks. (1899–1902), but the prominent axes connecting elements inside and outside the building had a similarity to ideas then being pursued by F.L.L.Wright. For the same client, Edward Burgess Hudson (1854–1936), founder (1897) of Country Life, Lutyens reconstructed and reworked Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island, Northum. (1903–4). From around this time his work began to draw on a wider range of styles. At Little Thakeham, Sussex (1902), for example, the exterior continued the vernacular late-Tudor manner, but the interior, with its double-height hall and stair, contains Classical Mannerist elements. Classical pilasters graced Homewood, Knebworth, Herts. (1901), and aspects of Mannerism were explored at Overstrand Hall, Cromer, Norfolk (1899–1901).

Then, with Heathcote, Ilkley, Yorks. (1906), came a change of direction. The house is a palazzo, with the Doric Order as used by Sanmicheli at the Porta Palio, Verona (c.1545), but Lutyens made the antae of the Order disappear into the walls, re-emerging only as base and capital (a device (which infuriated Pevsner) also used with pilasters on many of his buildings, including the Midland Bank, Poultry, London (1924–39)). Heathcote marked the period when Lutyens was fired with enthusiasm for what he called the ‘big game, the high game’, of Classical architecture. He employed a William-and-Mary style at Folly Farm, Sulhampstead, Berks. (1906), while Nashdom, Taplow, Bucks. (1905–8), was a vast pile in the early Neo-Georgian style, and William-and-Mary was used with great sensitivity at The Salutation, Sandwich, Kent (1911), one of his most serene creations. Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton, Devon (1910–32), however, is an allusion to medieval domestic architecture, built of granite, with mullioned and transomed windows and powerfully composed interiors and stairs. For Hudson’s Country Life offices at Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London (1904), Lutyens drew on Wren’s work at Hampton Court Palace for the façade, and at Hampstead Garden Suburb, London (1908–10), he designed the formal centre with two Churches, the Institute, and surrounding houses.

In 1912 Lutyens was appointed architect for the planning of New Delhi, India, and was joined by Baker, who was to design several of the buildings there. Together they created a magnificent Beaux-Arts-inspired work of civic design centred on the huge Viceroy’s House by Lutyens (1912–31): the latter, with its Private and State Rooms, planned with unerring skill, is an eloquent testament to Lutyens’s greatness. Certain Indian architectural elements were incorporated, such as the chatris and chujjah; the dome was derived from a stupa; and Lutyens invented a ‘Delhi Order’, a version of Roman Doric of different heights, the capitals all at one level, but the bases not. The gardens, too, were an ingenious synthesis of Eastern and Western themes.

Lutyens became one of the chief architects (with Baker, Reginald Blomfield, and Holden) to the Imperial War Graves Commission (from 1917). He designed many of the Cemeteries, including that at Étaples, France (1923–4), with twin arched pavilions carrying stone sculptured military standards and cenotaphs on high catafalques. He was also responsible for the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London (1919–20—a tall podium with subtle entasis carrying a tomb-chest); for the Stone of Remembrance to be erected in the War Cemeteries; and for Memorials to the Missing, including that to the Missing of the Somme, at Thiepval (1927–32), a metamorphosis of the triumphal arch with its subordinate sides also triumphal arches.

During the 1920s Lutyens’s practice changed direction towards commercial buildings. His works included the Midland Bank, Piccadilly, London (1921–5); Britannic House, Finsbury Circus, London (1920–4); the Midland Bank, Manchester (late 1920s); and Offices in Pall Mall, London (1929). For the British Embassy, Washington, DC (1927–8), he employed an American Colonial-Georgian style, and designed subtly detailed buildings at Magdalene College, Cambridge (1928–32), and Campion Hall, Oxford (1935–42). His later years were devoted to the design of the RC Cathedral, Liverpool (from 1929), to be a huge building based on similar ideas to those of the Thiepval Memorial, the whole composition crowned by an enormous dome larger than that of San Pietro, Rome. Only part of the crypt was built (1933–41), but the Sublime dark-brick vaults, inventive Orders, and Mannerist details (including a key-stone ‘bending’ a transome) are impressive. Lutyens’s greatest design was abandoned after the 1939–45 war, and Gibberd’s hesitantly-detailed circular structure was erected instead, uneasily perched on its podium. Lutyens also designed the Beatty and Jellicoe Memorial Fountains, Trafalgar Square, London (1937–9), and the Irish National War Memorial, Phoenix Park, Dublin (1930).

After his death Lutyens’s reputation declined with the rise of International Modernism, but began to revive after major exhibitions in NYC (1978) and London (1981).


Amery et al. (1982); AR, clxx/1077 (Nov. 1981), 311–18; J.Brown (1982, 1996); A.S.J.Butler (1950); Gradidge (1980, 1981); Hussey (1989); Inskip (1979); Lutyens (1991); P (1982); Ridley (2002); Stamp (1976, 1977, 2001); Stamp & Hopkins (eds) (2002); J.T (1996); Weaver (1981); Wilhide (2000)