Lutyens’s Little-Known Connections with Spain

By Paul Waite

In October 1999, I attended the conference “Lutyens Abroad”, held at the British School at Rome. Created by Andrew Hopkins and Gavin Stamp, it drew attention to the under-researched work of Lutyens outside the British Isles. With the exception of New Delhi, far less attention had been paid to Lutyens’s work abroad than to his work at home. While he made his name designing romantic vernacular weekend houses in southern England, he also responded to opportunities offered abroad.

Later published in 2002 as a slim volume by the British School, the conference covered Lutyens’s travels in Europe and his designs for the British School at Rome, houses in France, exhibition buildings, war graves, the British Embassy at Washington, South Africa (Johannesburg Art Gallery and the Rand Regiments Memorial) and Imperial Delhi. However, well before this, in January 1983, Gavin and Margaret Richardson wrote a nine-page article for the Architectural Association School of Architecture’s magazine on Lutyens and Spain. Margaret had done research at the RIBA for source material and Gavin had travelled to Spain to the site of one of the projects to photograph its remains. I had talked with them about the possibility of taking a tour to look at his work there but they said there was little to see. Furthermore, Lutyens was unable to complete his Spanish commissions, mostly because of the deterioration of the country’s economy and social order in the 1930s, and this has played a major role in keeping these projects in the dark. Moreover, the devastation caused by the Civil War obliterated most of the evidence held in Spanish archives. As far as I knew, nothing more had been researched until Iñigo Basarrate came to Edinburgh University to undertake his PhD on Lutyens’s work in Spain.

Iñigo was generous enough to give two London lectures, entitled “Lutyens in Spain”, one on 29 October last year in the library of Lutyens’s Bloomsbury Hotel, by kind permission of the General Manager, Michael Neve, and one on 30 October at the Instituto Cervantes at the invitation of the Director, Ignacio Peyró Jiménez. These covered all four of Lutyens’s known Spanish commissions. For more details of these, see Michael Barker’s review below.

The research undertaken by Iñigo is exemplary and shows again how creative Lutyens was in building in other countries, managing to design suitable floor plans for hotter climes as well as incorporating local historical and architectural styles.