1982 - Berthold Lubetkin 1901-1990


Designer: Lubetkin Drake & Tecton
Copyright: Janet Hall/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1995)

It is more than a little surprising that this master of the modern movement should have been honoured with the Royal Gold Medal as late as 1982, given that his best and most influential work was done more than 40 years earlier.


Born in Georgia he arrived in Britain via Moscow, Poland and Paris, where he designed what the Royal Gold Medal citation described as ‘his first real work of modern architecture – the astonishing apartment block in Avenue de Versailles (1928-31)’. In England, where the modern movement arrived characteristically late, he founded Tecton with the aim of pooling the individual identity of its architect members into collective endeavour in a way previously unknown in this country.


Highpoint One, North Hill, Highgate, London

Designer: Lubetkin & Tecton
Copyright: Dell & Wainwright/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1935)

Tecton combined a passion for social reform with a deeper knowledge of European modernism in the designs for the Gorilla House (with Ove Arup – 1934), the Penguin Pool (1934) and the North Gate and refreshment kiosk at London Zoo; the Giraffe and Elephant Houses as well as a kiosk and a restaurant at Whipsnade Zoo (1934-35); Dudley Zoo (1935-37), Highpoint 1(1933-35 and Highpoint 2 (1936-38) in Highgate; Finsbury Health Centre (1935-38).


The post-war housing schemes of Spa Green in London's Rosebery Avenue (1943-50) and Priory Green, King's Cross (1943-57) set a thoughtful precursor to the wave of social housing projects which dominated London in the 50s and 60s.


'His extraordinary vision immediately lit up a new path for disciples and contemporaries to follow in a socially changing world. The primary aim of Lubetkin's output of work could be said to have been the rejection of bourgeois values that showed in the imitation of past styles and a dying academism which offered no practical or imaginative solution to modern social and economic problems.' Stephen Gardiner