Imperial College

Architect's response to the protests

Letter from Graham Dawbarn to H.S. Goodhart-Rendel from 27 February 1956

Letter from Graham Dawbarn to H.S. Goodhart-Rendel, 27 February 1956
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections 


Part of the anger regarding the proposal to expand Imperial College was due to the Norman & Dawbarn plans for the replacement buildings not being initially made public (only the first preliminary block design was exhibited at the Royal Academy in the summer of 1955).

Dawbarn defends the proposals

This fascinating letter by the architect Graham Dawbarn (1893-1976), touches on this and many other general issues concerning redevelopment and the difficulties architects face. He expresses his distress that it's not been possible to publicise his proposals. It's unclear whether this was due to a request from government, but Dawbarn feels that he has been forced to stand against people like the architectural historian Goodhart-Rendel, for whom he has 'the highest regard'.

He goes on to defend the proposed demolition of Imperial Institute, claiming that in 100 years' time the college would ultimately benefit from its removal as the Victorian structure would be unsuitable for their educational needs. He also notes that his firm had prepared several schemes that kept the institute, and that these were passed on to the college and relevant authorities to decide.

Dawbarn concludes his letter with a request for all to have faith in contemporary architects:

'Change is usually sad, but it is dangerous to live too much in the past and to overstate the past at the expense of the future.'

History of Norman & Dawbarn

The firm, Norman & Dawbarn, established in 1934, was taken over by Capita Symonds in 2005, and is now part of Capita Architecture. The firm had developed a reputation in the education, health, commercial and industrial sectors. Its co-founder Graham Dawbarn is perhaps best known for his work in the 1950s as the designer of BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane.