D688 - Gardner-Medwin, Robert Joseph - c1918-1994

The papers consist of mainly professional and some private papers of Robert Gardner-Medwin. They include the following: academic papers, predominantly of the Liverpool School of Architecture but also of other institutions, including the British School of Architecture in Rome and the Polish School of...

Full description

Main Creator: Gardner-medwin, Robert
Archive level description: Sub-sub fonds
Physical Description:15 boxes, 17 outsized rolled items and 2 outsized flat items
Summary:The papers consist of mainly professional and some private papers of Robert Gardner-Medwin. They include the following: academic papers, predominantly of the Liverpool School of Architecture but also of other institutions, including the British School of Architecture in Rome and the Polish School of Architecture (see D688/1 Academic Papers); material relating to professional work including some overseas work and large projects at Liverpool University and Edinburgh University (see D688/2 Other Work); society work, in particular Merseyside Civic Society, the Bluecoat Society of Arts and Liverpool Architectural Society (see D688/3 Societies); lectures and talks (see D688/4 Other Papers). There is a considerable quantity of material throughout the collection relating to architecture, town planning and conservation in the Merseyside area.
Reference Number:D688

The collection is divided into the following sections:

  • D688/1 Academic Papers
  • D688/2 Other Work
  • D688/3 Societies
  • D688/4 Other Papers
Biographical/Administrative Information:

Robert Joseph Gardner-Medwin was born in Liverpool 10 April 1907 and studied architecture at the University of Liverpool. He also gained a diploma in Civic Design. In the summer of 1929, between his third and fourth years at university, he worked at Sloan and Robertson in New York. He also visited Chicago (see D688/1/3/7 Chicago World Fair) and the planetarium there inspired him to design an observatory and planetarium on Wirral's Bidston Hill for his final thesis design (see D688/1/3/4 Final Thesis and Competition Drawings). His design for a planetarium in Sefton Park won the Honan Scholarship of the Liverpool Architectural Society. He gained a first class degree (B. Arch. Hons. Design) on 4 July 1931.

Gardner-Medwin became an assistant to A.S.G. Butler in a small country practice. He then worked at a town planning firm, Adams, Thompson and Fry. He applied for and received a Fellowship under the Commonwealth Fellowships of the USA, later the Harkness Fellowships (see D688/1/3/6 Report of Work and Travel for the Commonwealth Fund Fellowship) and went to Harvard in the autumn of 1933. Rather than doing a masters Gardner-Medwin decided to study a wide range of subjects including Landscape Architecture, Fine Art and Modern English Literature.

Back in England Gardner-Medwin worked with Joseph Emberton and also Erno Goldfinger in Bedford Square for a short while. At this point he gained a part time instructing post with the Architectural Association which later became full time. He had a brief time working at the Regent Street Polytechnic School of Architecture and Town Planning lecturing and studio instructing, mainly in town planning. He also began to write articles and reviews for the Architectural Journal and wrote a chapter on modern furnishings for Abercrombie's The Modern House. He also worked with Miles Wright, one of the editors of the Architectural Journal, on a study of the design of nursery and elementary schools. They published articles which later became a book, The Design of Nursery and Elementary Schools and also entered a competition run by the News Chronicle to design a Junior and Infant School. They wrote a report on the expansion of Latymer Grammar School, Hammersmith. (See D688/2/4 Other Projects for several projects on schools.) Together they rented an office at 2 Great James Street and each had a number of small commissions. Gardner-Medwin was asked by Ernest Collister to design a building for Essex Rivers Catchment Board (see D688/2/4/38 Outline Drawings for East Rivers Catchment Board). This did not go ahead because of the war. He also won a competition for the first Scottish satellite town in Kincorth, near Aberdeen, working with Clifford Holliday and Denis Winston. His other work included a factory canteen at Croydon and restaurant and domestic work in the London area.

Gardner-Medwin was called to military service in the Royal Engineers in 1940. He was soon promoted to Major and made Deputy Commander, Royal Engineers (DCRE). A few months later he was appointed Town Planning and Housing Adviser to Development and Welfare in the West Indies (see D688/2/1/8 West Indies and D688/2/1/9 Correspondence) and was there until 1947. Then he took on the job of Chief Architect and Planning Officer for the Department of Health for Scotland, at the time the chief planning authority in Scotland (see D688/1/3/11 Edinburgh Scrap Book and D688/2/4/33 Plans for the Department of Health for Scotland).

In this post he worked on the first new Scottish town of East Kilbride (see D688/2/4/32 East Kilbride Outline Plan) and later on Glenrothes, Aberdeenshire. He also worked on the first Scottish Health Centre, Sighthill, Edinburgh (see D688/2/4/21 Scottish Health Centre). In late 1951 he was a member of the United Nations team to SE Asia (India, Pakistan, Malaya and Thailand) to look at the problems there in town planning and housing (see D688/2/1/2 UN Mission to S.E. Asia, D688/2/1/6 United Nations Work and D688/2/1/7 South Asia).

In 1952 he succeeded Budden as Chair of Architecture at the University of Liverpool (see D688/1 Academic Papers). Eventually the Schools of Architecture and Engineering merged to become the School of Architecture and Building Engineering. Architecture also formed close links with Civic Design. Gardner-Medwin arranged an exchange of Liverpool students and students from the Universities of Wroclaw and Warsaw. The students worked together on local urban design projects. Gardner-Medwin took part in the exchange (see D688/2/1/4 Visit to Poland) and made several Polish friends including Lucjan Pietka who later worked as a member of staff at Liverpool University and on projects with Gardner-Medwin. This was a continuation of Budden's work with the Polish School of Architecture which aimed to teach Polish students during the war so they would have the skills for rebuilding afterwards (see D688/1/2/5 Polish Connection).

Staff at the School of Architecture also did private work. Gardner-Medwin collaborated with Frank Jones on a research project into student hostels and a competition for student housing in Pollockshields, Glasgow (see D688/2/4/43 Glasgow University Halls of Residence Competition). He worked on major extensions to the Engineering Buildings at Edinburgh University in association with Gordon Stephenson, Young and Partners and later with Norman Kingham and Bill Knight. Later he worked on the Botany and Natural Resources Buildings at Edinburgh (see D688.2/2 Edinburgh University). He also worked on the Science Lecture Theatres Building at Liverpool University with Saunders, Boston and Brock and other specialists (see D688.2/3 Liverpool University). In 1964 Gardner-Medwin was adviser to Nairobi College, University of East Africa, on architectural and planning education. In 1965-1966 he was Chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects Overseas Relations Committee (see D688/2/1/1 Overseas Relations Committee (RIBA)) and also a member of the Board of Education, Commonwealth Association of Architects.

Gardner-Medwin retired from the Chair in 1973 (see D688/1/3/22 University Duties and Professional Obligations in Post Retirement Years) although he continued in private practice. Much of his work was in association with Saunders Boston architects (see D688/2/4/22 Saunders Boston Papers). He was very involved in society work. He had been president of Liverpool Architectural Society from 1965-1967 (see D688/3/3 Liverpool Architectural Society) and was Chairman of Merseyside Civic Society from 1972-1976 and from 1979-1986 (see D688/3/1 Merseyside Civic Society).He was also very involved in the Bluecoat Society (see D688/3/2 Bluecoat Society of Arts and Display Centre). He was awarded the Golden Order of Merit, Poland in 1976. He was a Fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute (FRTPI) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). He died 29 June 1995.

Much of this information has been gained from D688/1/3/1 Curriculum vitae and Other Biographical Information, D688/1/3/15 Recollections of Sixty Years of Modern Architecture in Britain 1930-1990 and D688/1/3/33 Technical Qualifications of Gardner-Medwin.