Patrick Gwynne (1913-2003)
The death of Patrick Gwynne severs perhaps our last direct connection with the pioneering generation of architects who introduced Modern architecture into this country in the 1930s. His continuous evolution of domestic architecture over 70 years could be seen as a vital thread extending that celebrated tradition of The English House documented by Herman Muthesius a century ago.
Patrick Gwynne, born 1913, was educated at Harrow and began his architectural training as an articled pupil of John Coleridge, a former assistant of Edwin Lutyens. However, it was the radical developments on the Continent - both visited and read about - that provided the vital inspiration.
Gwynne became an assistant in the office of Wells Coates, where he worked alongside Denys Lasdun until leaving in 1937 to undertake his first, and arguably most significant, commission - The Homewood, Surrey (pictured), now acquired by the National Trust. Finished in May 1938, it is the largest and most accomplished translation of Corbusian domestic architecture to be achieved in this country during that pioneer period. Lavishly fitted out and furnished, The Homewood also provided a rare demonstration of how 'heroic'Modernism could be elegant, epicurean and above all, English.
After RAF service during the war years, Gwynne resumed practice with an unbroken sequence of private house commissions. Many of these were on choice sites and for distinguished or wealthy clients and several are also now listed. There were, of course, public buildings and larger projects as well - the Theatre Royal in York, the much-loved restaurants in Hyde Park (one now scandalously demolished), medical centres, shops, apartments and some pioneering motorway buildings.
But it is the residential work that reveals Gwynne's architectural genius with his faultless sense of placing, innovative plan forms, novel techniques and materials and meticulous concern for interior detail.
Gwynne was reticent, with impeccable manners and refined patrician tastes. He shared the pleasures of The Homewood with a wide circle of friends and visitors - the house was built for entertaining.Despite increasing frailty in his latter years he retained his professional authority and engagement. On what proved to be the last day of his life we talked in detail about his latest house project.
His career completely bypassed the harsh world of post-war public sector architecture. Gwynne's work showed a different face of Modernism - humane, considerate, generous, enjoyable. Although nominated for the 2003 Royal Gold Medal, Gwynne was probably under-recognised in his lifetime due to the private pattern of his practice and his own unassuming personality. When the National Trust opens The Homewood to the visiting public, Gwynne's unique contribution will surely take its rightful place in the pantheon of English Modernism.