Herbert Baker

Baker was an assistant to a selection of Royal Gold Medalists, awarded it himself in 1927 for work throughout the Empire

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Secretariats, New Delhi © RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1927

 

Secretariats, New Delhi © RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1927

Baker trained at the Architectural Association before becoming an assistant to Ernest George and Edwin Lutyens  . Whilst in this illustrious company, he 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). He 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.

 

Bank of England © RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1934India House © RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1930South Secretariat building © Bernard Cox / RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1980

 

Born: 1862 (-1946)
Nationality: British

By 1912, Baker had moved to India where he collaborated with Lutyens as architects for New Delhi. Meanwhile, he opened an office in London to cope with the projects offered there. 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.

In 1917, Baker was appointed to the Imperial War Graves Commission, in particular designing war memorials at Winchester School and King's School, Canterbury.

  © RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1910

© RIBA Library Photographs Collection 1910

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. He is one of four Royal Gold Medallists who are buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

Awards:

  • Ashpitel Prize, 1889
  • Royal Gold Medal, 1927 

Buildings by Baker:

  • Legislative Building, Delhi, 1912
  • Union Buildings, Pretoria, South Africa, 1913
  • Groote Schuur, South Africa
  • St George's Cathedral, Cape Town
  • South African Institute of Medical Research, Johannesburg
  • Union Club, Johannesburg, 1914
  • India House, Aldwych, 1930
  • South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, 1930
  • Council Buildings, New Delhi, 1930
  • Royal Commonwealth Society building, Northumberland Avenue
  • Rebuilding of the Bank of England, London, 1939

 

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