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Brunswick Centre architect Patrick Hodgkinson dies

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The architect behind London’s Brutalist Brunswick Centre, Patrick Hodgkinson, has died aged 85

Hodgkinson began designing the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury in 1959, but it took another 13 years to be realised.

He famously stood down from the job before it finished in 1972 with the completed megastructure a ’heavily compromised’ and unpainted version of the modern London village Hodgkinson had initially proposed (see Scrubs up beautifully).

In the late 1990s Hodgkinson was invited back by developer Allied London to realise his original vision, working with Levitt Bernstein Architects on a £20 million reconfiguration of the Grade II-listed block. The much-praised revamp completed in 2006.

The mixed-use scheme was designed to house 1286 people, with a ratio of 2:1 for the commercial sections of shops, offices, cinema, pubs, restaurants and garages, and sat on the site of streets of run-down terraced housing. 

Hodgkinson was brought up in East Anglia - a formative period for the architect which fermented his appreciation of landscapes.

A keen sailor, he served in the navy during his national service and went on to study at the AA in London. He then spent time in Alvar Aalto’s office in Finland before joining Leslie Martin. Together they designed the brick-built Cambridge University residence Harvey Court which opened in 1962.

He taught in the States, Sri Lanka and the University of Bath where we was later professor emeritus of Architecture and Urbanism.

Hodgkinson had four sons from two separate marriages.

Brunswick Centre AJBL

Brunswick Centre AJBL

Tributes

Gary Tidmarsh, director of Levitt Bernstein

’Patrick Hodgkinson played a major part in shaping Levitt Bernstein. David Levitt and David Bernstein met working in Patrick’s office on the design the innovative Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury. Patrick’s vision was for a new low-rise village in the heart of London – at a time when everybody else was being pressed to build tall – offering shops and a mix of different sized affordable homes, each with more living and open space than those that were being replaced. Sadly, because of funding problems many of the original ideas were downgraded or not built at all. However, the social and humanist values that drove the design have been the same values that have permeated through Levitt Bernstein’s work ever since.

Patrick Hodgkinson played a major part in shaping Levitt Bernstein

’Though remaining a friend of the practice our paths did not cross professionally again until the 1990s, when Allied London, the new owners of the Brunswick Centre, invited Patrick to return to the project and realise his original vision. In turn, Patrick invited Levitt Bernstein to re-join him in working on the project.

’His knowledge of the building and how it should work in practise had not diminished in the interim, and he was committed to making the Brunswick Centre the best it could be. Its successful completion delighted him and its legacy is testament to his vision, talent and skill. We shall be forever grateful for being given the opportunity to know and work with such an outstanding architect.’

Michael Ingall, chief executive of Allied London

’There is a general architectural rule that form follows function, but Patrick Hodgkinson was ahead of his time and for him the expression form follows fiction is so much more apt. The Brunswick Centre in the heart of Bloomsbury was the creation of a story, a new Utopia of urban life, successive owners unfortunately didn’t get it, it was a story ahead of its time, they didn’t or couldn’t complete Patrick’s very clever and articulate story of an environment for modern day life.

It took 35 years for the story to come true

’It was a real pleasure and honour to both know and work with Patrick, and together complete his story. It took 35 years for the story to come true, but I am so pleased Patrick was able to finish his creation and eventually see the power and success of his thinking and witness the Brunswick thrive - not only as a piece of architecture but most importantly an urban place which was always at the heart of his story. Patrick made a real mark for me, others and for London, and his work will continue to be celebrated.’

David Lomax, architect, Waugh Thistleton

’It is sad to hear of the death at the weekend of Patrick Hodgkinson who will be remembered most fondly for his contribution to Bloomsbury in the shape of the Brunswick Centre. No one better understood the necessity to interrogate and reinvent rather than to mimic, with his witty reinterpretation of the Georgian terrace. 

’Better still, Patrick was almost unique in having had the opportunity to revisit his masterwork and prove his theory for a new generation of occupants when he returned to the Brunswick with his original assistants, care of Levitt Bernstein, 10 years ago. Not for him the ignominy of petitioning ministers for protection, he understood that the city must evolve, not stagnate. 

‘Now, unfortunately, it must continue to evolve without him.’

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • A great loss, but wonderful that he had the opportunity to return to the Brunswick Centre and make it the vibrant place he had originally intended it to be!
    But surely a mistake to refer to it as"Brutalist"?
    Incidentally Colin St John Wilson was also VERY closely involved with Patrick and Prof Martin in Harvey Court. Credit where credit due, especially in the AJ!

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