Awarded the CBE for his work on the Ismaili Centre in Kensington for the Aga Khan, Neville Conder was among those who shaped post-war British architecture
Neville Conder lived architecture. He was just emerging from the Architectural Association as I joined the school in the country house they were using at Monken Hadley to escape wartime London.With a ginger group of colleagues whose names and work were to shape the character of post-war architecture, he shared a small house by the church, which they all, predictably, called Taliesin.
After a short burst in Dennis Clarke Hall's office, Conder won a small competition that gave him the confidence to work on his own, though he shared space with another group, which included Hugh Casson, who had just been appointed director of the Festival of Britain.
This coincided with the untimely death of Christopher Nicholson, Hugh Casson's partner, and Conder found himself not only helping with the festival work, but with work that was just starting, the development plan for the Sidgwick Avenue Arts Faculty site in Cambridge.
Conder began to attract more independent work and was involved in designing a block of flats in Hammersmith, west London.
The need to move office consolidated the beginnings of the new practice. Invitations went out to me and to Michael Cain to form the new partnership, which was to last for 35 years.
A very active period ensued, the practice taking on a broad range of design work that developed from its earlier post-war involvement with the Festival, Coronation decorations, exhibition stands, and a number of interior design commissions.
Casson and I were working from the Royal College of Art, while Conder and Cain pursued the Cambridge work in the main practice building, developing an increasing number of the buildings on site. Conder maintained a keen guardianship over the character and nature of the practice while steering it into mainstream architecture.
While contributing to, and 'speaking the language' of, most of the work being produced in the office, Conder's most personal and individual involvement came in the development of the Pestalozzi Children's Village in Hampshire, The Derby Civic Halls, The Wyvern Theatre Swindon, Basingstoke Civic Offices and racing stable accommodation for the Aga Khan in Ireland.His landscaping and waterscaping at Birmingham University is beautifully modest, and how many people recognise his magnificent profiling of the Pulteney Weir at Bath?
Conder's most significant and well-received piece of architecture is the Ismaili Centre in Kensington, for the Aga Kahn, for which he was awarded a well-deserved CBE.