'The best 70th birthday present I could possibly have,' says John Bancroft, 'is for Pimlico School to be saved.'
Obvious, perhaps, but then after a career spent mostly at the glc, or lcc as it then was, it is a profound pity that the architect of what was the flagship comprehensive of the period - admired by architectural critics and opened by prime minister Harold Wilson - is scrabbling around in his retirement in a full-time fight to stop the bulldozers and the dreaded pfi.
It is not, however, that Bancroft is resentful of the Westminster City Council initiative to pull down Pimlico and build anew on the prime site, using designs by Ellis Williams. 'It's just that it's rather stupid and we're up against people who're very short-sighted,' he says. 'They've got no real vision. I'm quite certain that there's a hidden agenda to wipe everything the glc and ilea did off the face of London.'
Much of Bancroft's career has been spent designing schools, and much of it for the lcc/glc. After having trained at the Nottingham School of Architecture, which was then in the arts and crafts college, Bancroft joined the Royal Engineers to do his two-year stint. Then in 1951, he was based in Chatham, got work with the local authority and stayed until 1954 in a 'lively' surveyors' department. This was handy, he says, because he wanted to marry a girl in the public library. He moved on to Crawley New Town - sadly after much of the 'exciting' work had been completed - and then in 1957, his lcc life began. He would stay until the end in 1980. His first school project was the Elfrida Rathbone esn, in Camberwell, which is still standing but 'much mutilated'. Later there was the Philippa Fawcett teacher training college in Streatham, and then a decade spent in housing.
But it is Pimlico that has been the most high-profile, and remains so - though Bancroft was only chosen to work on it on a last-minute whim of the then leader of the schools department, Michael Powell.
After the glc, Bancroft took retirement, coming out of it to work on furniture for the nineteenth-century warship hms Warrior, then being restored in Portsmouth, a similar job on the ss Great Britain in Bristol and a little private work. Since then he has been working flat out on a refurb scheme for Pimlico, with Derek Sugden, Max Fordham, and Alan Baxter. riba president David Rock, who picked Bancroft to lecture at the Institute in 1973, has been on the phone in support, and there may be a fund-raising effort to come.
In October, however, it's Bancroft's birthday. He's keeping his fingers crossed.