The Council House, New Delhi (1931)
Designer: Baker, Sir Herbert (1862-1946)
Copyright: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1920s)
Herbert Baker trained at the Architectural Association before working as an assistant to Ernest George (another Royal Gold Medallist) with colleagues such as Guy Dawber and Edwin Lutyens (other Royal Gold Medallists). Whilst in this illustrious company, Baker was also studying at evening classes in the architectural school of the Royal Academy in London. As a student of architecture, he distinguished himself by winning the Ashpitel Prize of the RIBA in 1889 (then awarded annually for the student who distinguished himself most highly in his final examinations).
Baker set up practice in 1892 in South Africa, and after impressing Cecil Rhodes at a dinner party, was invited to design a number of buildings in the country including the Union Buildings in Pretoria; Rhodes’ own house, Groote Schuur; the cathedral in Cape Town; and the South African Institute of Medical Research and Union Club in Johannesburg.
By 1912, Baker had moved to India where he collaborated with Lutyens as architects for New Delhi. His work included the Legislative Building and the Council House. Meanwhile, he opened an office in London to cope with the projects offered there. These included India House at Aldwych (1925), South Africa House in Trafalgar Square (1930) and the Royal Commonwealth Society building in Northumberland Avenue. Baker’s key work in London was the reconstruction of the Bank of England within Sir John Soane’s original design. This task was somewhat difficult as Baker had to remain sympathetic to Soane’s ideals yet introduce a modern dimension.
Received the Royal Gold Medal 'in recognition of his works as an architect'.
In 1917, Baker was appointed to the Imperial War Graves Commission, in particular designing war memorials at Winchester School and King's School, Canterbury.
The Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, City of London: lateral view of the Threadneedle Street facade (1939)
Designer: Baker, Sir Herbert (1862-1946) Scott, Alexander Thomson (1887-1962)
Copyright: Humphrey & Vera Joel/Architectural Press Archive/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1950s)
On leaving South Africa, Baker founded the Herbert Baker Travelling Scholarship for South African Students and in his will he left money to found a scholarship in London for ‘advanced students from Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth for the purpose of fostering collaboration between the Arts of architecture, sculpture, painting and poetic literature’.
Once described as ‘Imperial’ and the ‘architect of the Empire’, Baker followed the classical tradition of architecture within the local context throughout his work.
Baker is one of just four Royal Gold Medallists who are buried in Westminster Abbey, London.