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CLASP building architect, Henry Swain dies, aged 77

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Henry Swain, who died on 7 January, was one of the key architects responsible for the success of the postSecond World War school building programme, writes Steven Palmer. He was also a RIBA vice-president in 1966-67 and was awarded a CBE in 1971.

Swain was born in Bideford in Devon in 1924 and was educated at Bryanston School in Dorset.

He then trained at the Architectural Association.

His studies were interrupted by the Second World War and he joined the Royal Navy and served on ships that were part of the Arctic convoys to Murmansk. After the war he returned to complete his studies at the AA.

He started his career with Hertfordshire County Council, for which he worked on an extensive programme of primary school construction. The process had to be fast, well designed and innovative to meet the requirements of post-war Britain.

It used prefabricated elements and a new school was produced every three weeks.

Swain then moved to Nottinghamshire. The council needed to build numerous schools in areas that were subject to subsidence, due to the mining that was under the sites. Swain was appointed as group leader of technical development and was charged with solving the problem.

Swain's solution was to let the structures 'ride' the subsidence. He developed flexible buildings that were light and had floors resting on sand which offered little resistance to the subsidence.

Again, a prefabricated system was developed to mass-produce the structures. These CLASP buildings were largely successful and won a number of RIBA awards. Swain was awarded the Gold Medal at the Milan Triennale in 1960 for his innovation.

Swain published Return to Murmansk in 1996, the story of his return to the ice-locked port after the war, but this time aboard his own yacht.

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