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Basil Urwin Spence (1907-1976)

Cathedral Church of St Michael, Coventry

Designer: Spence, Sir Basil (1907-1976); Epstein, Sir Jacob (1880-1959)
Copyright: Henk Snoek/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1962)

Born and educated in Bombay, Spence went on to study architecture at Edinburgh College of Art, where he secured a maintenance scholarship for the 'unusual brilliance' of his work. In 1929, as well as working as an assistant to Edwin Lutyens, he studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.


Spence's early work was concerned with exhibition design, including three pavilions for the Empire Exhibition in 1938 in Glasgow, and country houses.


After graduating, Spence went into practice in Edinburgh with William Kininmonth, but his work was interrupted by the Second World War. Spence was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and saw action in the D-Day landings in 1944.


After the war, Spence established his own practice, designing a pavilion at the 1951 Festival of Britain, and designed the radical new Coventry Cathedral in 1956-62. Other work included Glasgow Airport (1966), the Hyde Park Cavalry Barracks, London (1970) and the British Embassy in Rome (1971).


Spence was nominated several times for the Royal Gold Medal.