The cataloguing and conservation of the unique archive of the late Sir Denys Lasdun (1914-2001) has been completed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The full Lasdun Archive is now available to all and can be explored by arrangement with the RIBA and via the British Architecture Library online catalogue at http://riba.sirsidynix.net.uk/uhtbin/webcat.
Content from the Denys Lasdun Archive will be used for the new website Lasdun Online, to be hosted on the RIBA’s website www.architecture.com. Funded by the Graham Foundation and curated by Dr Barnabas Calder, Lasdun Online will go live in summer 2014, and will offer a fully comprehensive illustrated list of Lasdun’s projects built and unbuilt, accompanied by analytical essays.
Sir Denys Lasdun was one of the leading architects of the 1960s, with projects including the National Theatre (1964-76), the University of East Anglia (1963-9) and the Royal College of Physicians in Regent’s Park (1958-64). Sir Denys Lasdun died in 2001, following which his family formally deposited his full archive with the RIBA British Architectural Library and in 2006 work began on its conservation and cataloguing.
Featuring architectural models, papers, drawings, photographs, film and audio, the archive offers an exceptional insight into the work of Lasdun and into the society, culture and politics of the second half of the twentieth century. It includes material relating to his early architectural thinking, to the fights over his proposal for tall science towers in central Cambridge and even the occasion when, whilst designing a museum in Ghana, he was bitten by a stallion he was riding along a beach, nearly losing the use of his hand.
Lasdun’s career began in the earliest years of Modernism in 1930s London, working for pioneering architects Berthold Lubetkin and Wells Coates, and continued through to the 1990s. In the 1950s he produced a series of exciting and widely published buildings for the British welfare state, including housing in Bethnal Green and a school in Paddington. Throughout the 1960s Lasdun was widely admired by his peers and he turned down more work than he accepted to keep his practice small enough to retain personal control over all design decisions.
Highlights of the archive include:
Correspondence with figures who shaped Britain after 1945, including actors and theatre directors (Laurence Olivier and Peter Hall), politicians (James Callaghan, Keith Joseph, Arnold Goodman and Jennie Lee), art and architecture specialists (Frances Yates, Nikolaus Pevsner and Ernst Gombrich), and architects from Le Corbusier to Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid
Photographs by leading photographers of the day including John Donat, John Havinden, Richard Einzig, Ezra Stoller and Richard Bryant
Beautiful presentation models of his buildings, including a 2m-wide model of an unbuilt 1965 scheme for the National Theatre and Opera House, showing its context on London’s South Bank
Lasdun’s office and personal papers - notes of the discussions, phone calls and chance meetings that shaped each project’s development, of the kind that normally disappear from the record
Drawings which show the development of his designs from initial sketches through to their final form
Film and audio material (much of which has been digitised) bringing to life the charismatic voice of Lasdun and those of his contemporaries.
The Lasdun Archive cataloguing was funded by donors including Morton Neal, the late Malcolm MacAlpine, the Headley Trust, the Drue Heinz Trust, the RIBA Library Trust, the Rayne Foundation, the Rothschild Foundation, the Royal College of Physicians and the European Investment Bank.