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Sir Basil Spence

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Sir Basil Urwin Spence was a Scottish architect, most notably associated with Coventry Cathedral in England and the Beehive in New Zealand, but also responsible for numerous other buildings in the Modernist/Brutalist style.


Spence was born in Bombay, India. He was educated at the John Connon School, operated by the Bombay Scottish Education Society, and was then sent back to Scotland to attend George Watson's College in Edinburgh from 1919-1925. He enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) in 1925, studying architecture. In 1929-1930 he spent a year as an assistant, along with William Kininmonth, in the London office of Sir Edwin Lutyens, whose work was to have a profound influence on Spence's style, where he worked on designs for the Viceroy's House in New Delhi, India. While in London he attended evening classes at the Bartlett School of Architecture under A. E. Richardson. Returning to ECA in 1930 for his final year of studies, he was appointed a junior lecturer, despite the fact that he was still a student. He continued to teach at ECA until 1939.

Important Works

In 1959 secured two important commissions, for the British Embassy in Rome (completed 1971), and for the Hyde Park Cavalry Barracks in London (completed 1970). He was also responsible for modernist buildings on The Canongate in Edinburgh, opposite the new Scottish Parliament and in view of Holyrood Palace. Other work in the 1960s included the executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings in Wellington, nicknamed "The Beehive", Edinburgh University Library, and Abbotsinch Airport (now Glasgow Airport). In 1960, Spence designed Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh's Braid Hills area (based on the same angled fin concept as found at Coventry Cathedral). He also designed Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, which was unveiled in Snowdonia, north Wales, in 1964.

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bostjan, March 23rd, 2016
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