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Mr Basil Urwin Spence

Sir Basil Urwin Spence (1907–1976) was a renowned British architect whose innovative designs left an indelible mark on the architectural landscape of the mid-20th century. Born on August 13, 1907, in Bombay, India, Spence's early exposure to diverse cultures and architectural styles greatly influenced his later work.

Spence's academic journey began at the George Watson's College in Edinburgh, where he showed early promise in the arts. Later, he attended the Edinburgh College of Art from 1925 to 1927, before pursuing architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. His formative years as an architect were shaped by his work with Sir Edwin Lutyens and in the office of Rowand Anderson & Paul.

In the 1930s, Spence established his own architectural practice in London, gaining recognition for his modernist designs and attention to functionality. However, it was during World War II that his career took a significant turn. Spence served in the Royal Engineers, and his wartime experiences profoundly impacted his architectural philosophy. His exposure to military structures and planning influenced his approach to designing public spaces and buildings.

One of Spence's most iconic projects was the Coventry Cathedral, which earned him international acclaim. Following the bombing of the original cathedral during the Blitz in 1940, Spence won the design competition for its reconstruction. Completed in 1962, the new Coventry Cathedral is a masterpiece that seamlessly blends modernist and Gothic elements. The project showcased Spence's ability to marry tradition with innovation, creating a space that reflected both resilience and hope.

Spence's architectural repertoire also includes the University of Sussex campus, the Scottish National War Memorial, and the Hyde Park Cavalry Barracks in London. His work extended beyond the United Kingdom, with projects such as the Beehive – the Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington – and the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Rome.

Throughout his career, Spence received numerous accolades for his contributions to architecture. He was knighted in 1960 and elected as a Royal Academician in 1961. His impact on the field was further recognized when he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 1968.

Sir Basil Spence's legacy lives on through his timeless designs and his influence on subsequent generations of architects. His ability to blend tradition with innovation, coupled with a deep understanding of space and function, continues to inspire and shape the world of architecture.


  1. Harwood, Elain. (2015). "Sir Basil Spence: Buildings and Projects." RIBA Publishing.
  2. Darley, Gillian. (2004). "Villages of Vision: A Study of Strange Utopias." Manchester University Press.
  3. Service, Alastair. (1997). "Basil Spence: Architect." Oxford University Press.
  4. Twentieth Century Society. (2007). "Sir Basil Spence: An Architectural Biography." Twentieth Century Society.
  5. Pevsner, Nikolaus, and Williamson, Elizabeth. (2002). "The Buildings of England: Nottinghamshire." Yale University Press.

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