Burton, Richard (5 of 10). National  Life Story Collection: Architects' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2014-02-01, 2014-02-08, 2014-02-09, 2014-02-15, 2014-02-16, 2015-09-10

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, London

  • Interviewees

    Burton, Richard, 1933-2017 (speaker,  male)

  • Interviewers

    Franklin, Geraint (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: [Session three: 9 February 2014] Introduction to the recording. Agreement between PA, RB and PK that they would work together when the opportunity arose. Description of return from Iran; PA travelled direct to South Africa. On return, PK offered job at Powell & Moya [P&M]. RB spent three months in Paris working in office of Guillerme Gillete. Minor case of tuberculosis discovered during medical test for military service. [00:06:14] Position in Housing Division of GLC [London County Council]. Joint project with PA on his return from South Africa. PK moved to France, then to the United States, working with Marcel Breuer. [00:08:36] RB then offered PK’s position at P&M. RB completed working drawings for PK’s scheme for houses at Swindon Hospital. RB asked to take over scheme for Brasenose College, Oxford. Mentions ‘Master & Pupil’ lecture for Twentieth Century Society [C775/10]. Description of working relationship with Philip Powell [PP] and Jacko [Hidalgo] Moya [JM]. Attribution of Skylon to JM. PP working on his house in Epping. [00:15:47] Work with PP and JM on Brasenose; story of doors. JM’s design of staircases between blocks. Brasenose one of the earliest modern buildings for Oxford University. Description of building materials and construction process. RB worked with Charles Vice, the structural engineer who worked on Pimlico [Churchill Gardens housing]. [00:22:53] Comments on subsequent building at Oxford and Cambridge. Norman Leyland [NL], bursar of Brasenose College, member of group of professors who recommended architects to other colleges. ABK received commissions from Keble College and Oxford Centre for Management Studies [OCMS], first business school in Oxford. [00:25:44] NL the director of OCMS. P&M declined commission and recommended ABK. [00:27:39] Partnership formed in 1961, when PK won competition for Trinity College Dublin Library; story of telegram. Description of office in Goodwin’s Court off St Martin’s Lane. PA and RB already working on design of Chichester Theological College. Description of scheme. [00:32:40] PK’s initial design of Trinity College Library, completed in Breuer’s office, was in pre-cast concrete. Frank Newby advised in-situ cast concrete; change in character of building. Intensive joint work on project. [00:35:49] RB mentions periodic health problems, and praises medical care. [00:37:41] Changes in working patterns between partners with growth of practice and increasing specialisation in building types. One partner would lead project, with another in reserve in case of unavailability. Partners worked in same room. [Brief pause in recording]. [00:41:32] Example of RB taking over from PA at Redcar Library project. [00:42:38] RB introduced to Henry Moore [HM] through VXP. HM’s wife lent sculpture to Trinity College Dublin, to be sited on podium of ABK library. Another HM sculpture lent to Brasenose College. ABK’s interest relation between public sculpture and architecture. Story of ‘rift’ with HM over siting of sculpture, and comments on eventual setting elsewhere at Trinity College. Visits to HM’s studio at Much Hadham and friendship with Anthony Caro, HM’s assistant. [00:53:42] ABK’s design of HM exhibitions at Marlborough Gallery, London. Description of RB’s design of exhibition for Contemporary Arts Society [CAS] at the Tate Gallery, Millbank. Mentions HM’s backing of rival architectural practice (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) in National Gallery competition. HM’s extensive work in United States. Later relations with HM. Comments on HM’s working practices. [01:01:45] Description of design process of CAS exhibition. RB’s design of American HM exhibition, jointly arranged by Malborough Gallery and Knoedler. Description of RB and PA’s design of Kasmin Gallery in Bond Street. [01:09:33] RB’s desire to move on from designing for art galleries. Account of large housing scheme in Basildon, Essex. ABK retained Peter Ellis [PE], sociologist from London School of Economics, to consult on evaluation and briefing of scheme. Impact of PE’s surveys on planning and design. Discussions with tenants filmed. Description of planning of scheme; garages planned as start-up business units. [01:25:45] Mentions Whitmore Court, scheme of 90 dwellings in which old and young occupants were mixed. Comments on RB’s revisits to Basildon; effects of ‘right to buy’ and other changes to buildings. Inclusion of social centre in each housing scheme. Comments of residents on their housing. [01:31:17] RB’s interest in energy conservation. Involvement in RIBA energy group from 1974 to 1981. Low energy scheme for 420 houses in Basildon, with Ove Arup & Partners; explanation of passive solar gain. Accounts of careers of Serge Kadleigh and George Kasabov; their influence on ABK’s environmental thinking in subsequent schemes, including WH Smith headquarters in Swindon, projects for British Airports Authority. [01:44:31] Low Energy Hospital Study [1982], jointly produced by ABK and Building Design Partnership for Howard Goodman [HG], chief architect of the Department of Health. Example of energy inefficiency in kitchens. [01:48:20] HG commissioned ABK to design low energy hospital [St Mary’s Hospital] at Isle of Wight. RB’s desire for inhabitants not to be aware of the technology. Mentions ABK’s office moves, to City, then Chalcot Road near Primrose Hill. Description of rapid programme and collaboration involving Department of Health architects, ABK, service engineers, structural engineers and client. Outline design produced over four days. Three year delay in construction; finished in 1991. Mentions use of Total Energy System; replacement of original stainless-steel cladding. Later role as design adviser to Department of Health. [02:01:40] ABK incorporated programme of artworks at St Mary’s Hospital, working with Peter Senior. RB cites 1984 study by Roger Ulrich [RU] on therapeutic effects of patients’ access to natural environment. Recalls visit to Royal Hospital in Bath in 1970s – lack of public art. Many health buildings now have arts co-ordinators.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Richard Burton (1933-2017), architect.

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