7 International Architects who Helped Shape England

Architects from around the world have contributed to England's built environment.

Architects from around the world have lived and worked in England in relatively small numbers for several centuries.

In particular, the 20th century saw many refugees fleeing the political situation in Europe. Their contribution to the built environment is undeniable, and they are responsible for some of the most important buildings of the 20th and 21st centuries.

1. Amyas Connell

A photograph of the exterior of a large white modern house.
The Grade II* listed house High and Over in Amersham in Buckinghamshire. © Steve Cadman.

Born at the turn of the 20th Century, Amyas Connell came to Europe from his native New Zealand initially to study in Rome. Connell moved to London to work in 1930.

One of his earliest designs was the Grade II* country house High and Over, which is listed as being ‘of outstanding importance as the first truly convincing essay in the International style in England.’

The house was designed for the archaeologist Bernard Ashmole, and according to John Betjeman “scandalised the whole of Buckinghamshire” with its futuristic, sleek design.

2. Berthold Lubetkin

A photograph of the exterior of a tower block in an L shape
Dorset Estate, Tower Hamlets, London.
A black and white photograph of a terrace of houses with a tower block in the background.
The Grade I listed Highpoint I tower block in the background.
A photograph of a pool of water with various slides and steps going into the pool
The Grade I listed Penguin Pool at London Zoo.

After spending time in Paris, the Russian Jewish architect Berthold Lubetkin settled in London in 1931.  He considered architecture to be a vehicle for social change and improvement and soon founded the Tecton Group (also referred to as Tecton) with a group of British architects that included Denys Lasdun, designer of the Royal National Theatre.

Tecton designed many notable buildings, including the Penguin Pool at London Zoo, multiple buildings at Dudley Zoo, Highpoint I and II, and the Finsbury Health Centre.

The latter was one of Britain’s earliest, modernist public commissions, and its function was to improve the health of the local community, whilst its form intended to lift their spirits.  Ultimately it was inspired by Lubetkin’s belief that ‘nothing is too good for the workers’.

3. Ernő Goldfinger

A photograph of the exterior of a large modern office block.
Former Carr and Co Offices, Solihull, West Midlands.
A photograph of a tall tower block.
Balfon Tower, St Leonard’s Road, Poplar, London.

Goldfinger left his native Hungary as a young man: travelling first to Paris and then London.

In 1934 he moved into a flat in Lubetkin’s Highpoint I with his wife and son, and became one of England’s most important architects, designing numerous schools as well as vast swathes of social housing.

He is perhaps best known for his two mighty icons of Brutalism that adorn east and west London, the Grade II* listed Trellick and Balfron Towers.

4. Walter Gropius

A colour lithograph of a design for a new college building.
A colour lithograph of Impington Village College. © Wellcome Library, London.

Born in Berlin in 1883, Walter Gropius was an architect and founder of the Bauhaus School.

Though short lived, the school had vast international influence: its students and teachers were responsible for some of the most iconic pieces of Modern design.

Denounced as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis the school closed in 1933, and its members scattered across the world. With the help of Maxwell Fry, Gropius was able to escape and arrived in London in the mid-1930s where he worked on the Isokon project with his former colleague Marcel Breuer, both of whom lived in the eponymous building in Hampstead (designed by the Canadian architect Wells Coates.

5. Neave Brown

A photograph of concrete housing estate.
The Grade II* Alexandra Road Estate, Camden, London.
A photograph of a housing estate made up of multiple maisonettes.
The Grade II listed Dunboyne Road Estate, formerly Fleet Road ll, Dunboyne Road, Gospel Oak, Camden, London.
A photograph of a housing estate made up of multiple maisonettes with flourishing gardens.
The Grade II listed Dunboyne Road Estate, formerly Fleet Road ll, Dunboyne Road, Gospel Oak, Camden, London.

After studying at the Architectural Association (AA) in London, the American architect and artist Neave Brown worked for Camden Council on its radical post-war social housing drive (alongside the Hungarian Peter Tabori).

Brown rejected the tower-block style of social housing, believing that residents needed their own outdoor space and front doors to the street.  In 2014 he became the first living architect to have all of his work listed: a terrace in Dartmouth Park, the Dunboyne Road Estate and the Alexandra Road Estate.

6. Denise Scott Brown

A photograph of the exterior of a classical style gallery building.
The Grade I listed Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery, London. © Richard George.

Another graduate of the AA, Scott Brown was born into a Jewish family in what is now Zambia in 1931. She came to London to work for the Modernist Frederick Gibberd and to study before moving to America to attend the University of Pennsylvania.

Throughout her career, Scott Brown has been vocal about the discrimination against women in architecture. She was notably overlooked for her contribution to the Grade I listed Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery, for which her husband Robert Venturi won the Pritzker Prize in 1991.

7. Zaha Hadid

A photograph of the exterior of a modern building with a grass mound beside it.
The London Aquatics Centre. © George Rex.

In 2013, Zaha Hadid supported the campaign to recognise Denise Scott Brown as a Pritzker Prize laureate, and in 2004 Hadid had been the first woman to win the award.

Born in Iraq in 1950, she also studied at the AA after initially studying Mathematics in Beirut. She founded her own practice in London, and the firm’s first major project was the Vitra Fire Station in Germany.

They were also behind the design for the London Aquatics Centre, the diving and swimming facility built for the 2012 Olympics and now open to the public.

She was highly decorated, winning the Stirling Prize twice as well as being awarded a CBE.

Written by Charlotte Goodhart

Further reading

2 comments on “7 International Architects who Helped Shape England

  1. David J Gill

    It seems unfair to accuse Neave Brown of being an American architect just because he was born in fabulous Utica, New York. He’s a British architect.

  2. Jason Sayer

    Why is it unfair? Is being an American architect bad? I don’t think so.

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