Ground floor, Maison Assouline © Olimpia Castellini
Edwin Lutyens’s Work During the Great War Years (1914-1919) by Iñigo Basarrate
Please note that the venue for this lecture has been changed, and it will now take place in the Library at The Bloomsbury Hotel 16-22 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3NN
Monday 29 October, 18:00-19:30 – The Library at The Bloomsbury Hotel
18:30-19:30 Lecture (1st floor in The Library)
The work of Edwin Lutyens has received much scholarly study since the 1980s, but various significant commissions he received from clients in Spain are still but little known. Unfortunately, Lutyens was unable to complete these commissions, largely because of the deterioration of Spain’s economy and social order in the 1930s. Then, and related to this, the ensuing Civil War obliterated most of the evidence about them in Spanish archives. Both of these tragic factors have played major roles in keeping these projects in the dark.
Most of Lutyens’s projects in Spain (the first project for El Guadalperal, La Ventosilla and House for Cimera) coincided with World War I. For Lutyens, as with other architects, this was a time of much-reduced activity and forms an interval between two extraordinarily prolific phases in his career. His work at Delhi had slowed down and was finally suspended during 1917–19 when commissions at home also ground to a halt. The Spanish commissions formed the mainstay of his works during the war years, and offer, together with a few other works which he developed during these years, a valuable insight into his evolution as an architect at this time.
This is important to understand his work, for, as we will see, these were crucial years in his career as an architect. They were years of a quiet interlude between two peaks in Lutyens’ career, namely the early 1910s and the post Great-War years. Between the years in which Lutyens had designed the Viceroy´s House in Delhi, Ednaston Manor and Castle Drogo and those of the Cenotaph, the Great War Memorials and his confident corporate buildings in London spanned a period of virtual unemployment in which works at home and in India were at an almost complete halt due to the war effort. Lutyens’s projects in Spain allow a fuller understanding of his work as they cast light on an obscure but crucial period of his career which was, however, a time of rich and fruitful formal experimentation.
Finally, These little-known projects are also an evidence of the intense cultural exchange between Britain and Spain that took place during the first decades of the twentieth-century, after centuries in which both countries regarded each other as military and cultural enemies. In fact, Lutyens designed the palaces of El Guadalperal and La Ventosilla not in an international classical style, but in a getting inspiration from Spanish Renaissance architecture. The use of this style by an English architect, which was virtually unprecedented, shows a growing awareness of Spanish architectural heritage by British scholars and architects. This process reached a peak in the first decades of the twentieth-century, when these projects were commissioned. Secondly, that Lutyens received these important commissions from Spanish clients is evidence of the growing cultural influence that Britain exerted on Spanish elites in the early twentieth-century.
Iñigo Basarrate graduated as an architect (University of Navarra, 2012) and gained an MA on Architectural History and Theory (University of Navarra, 2013). He later undertook a doctoral research at the University of Edinburgh focusing on Edwin Lutyens and his works in Spain, fully funded by the university (Edinburgh College of Arts scholarship 2013-2016) and by the Spanish Government (Beca Hispanex 2016). He has presented parts of his research at academic conferences, lectured at the University of the Basque Country and published part of his doctoral research in academic journals (Architectural History and The British Art Journal). Iñigo works as an architect in Bilbao while he continues researching on architectural history and preparing publications. His research interest include the work of Edwin Lutyens, late classical architecture, English architecture in Spain and the British reception of Spanish architecture.
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