Peter Moro: an appreciation Two distinguished former colleagues provide their personal memories of a unique architectural figure
In 1941, Peter Moro's arrival at the Polytechnic School of Architecture heralded a new era, one where his strong personality, his continental aura, work with Tecton and his evident achievement in the elegant and sophisticated house at Birdham provided a lodestar. He taught best on a one-to-one basis where, in tying knots, his three-dimensional skills were dazzling, while on the broad front his searching 'crits' and acerbic comments on student complacency were salutary, persuading all to do better.
At that time, received wisdom was 'form follows function'. Moro declared he learned more from Lubetkin than in all his school years and, like him, eschewed the 'functionalism' of the day and believed in the form-giving role of the architect as well as the organising one.
Following his LCC years, he achieved notable success with his Nottingham Playhouse, radical in its day, the finest of the first tranche of post- war theatres, and in which he achieved a contemporary richness of experience to match that of traditional theatre.
Although he and his partners worked in several fields, the theatre was a major interest to him, and work included refurbishment at the Bristol Old Vic, The Queens University Theatre at Coleraine and, in 1982, the Plymouth Theatre with its variable capacity to suit winter repertory and big summer shows and which provided a notable architectural presence in the city. At Hull University, the Gulbenkian centre provided a practical range of studios wrapped in an envelope of refined architectural character.
Whatever the subject, his architecture was deeply rooted in the bedrock of the programme, where he sought to organise the plan three-dimensionally with space and volume for convenience and delight, aiming to create humane environments. He was deeply involved with the niceties of use, the pleasures of movement, the delight of material to sight and touch. He pursued building design with a rare honesty of approach. He was rational, with a clear understanding of how to put things together and, perhaps, faith that in designing well, resonances would emerge from unconscious springs.
Latter-day practice did not suit Moro's maestro temperament, and retirement was a pleasure. He enjoyed life in his Blackheath house, the visits of friends, tennis, and writing trenchant letters to the press. He made delightful relief constructions, fastidious in design and execution, which showed him as the visual man he was, through and through, not really in tune with English prejudice towards literature. His pictorial sensibility inclined to the ordered, rather than the expressionist, and he had in architecture and design a sort of Pantheon to which admission was highly selective, though covering a wide field. Standards were rigorously applied by Moro and, just as in his own work, were characterised by integrity and a profound love of quality.