Berthold Lubetkin (1901 – 1990) Russian-British Modernist Designer

Berthold Lubetkin (1901 – 1990) was a Russian-British modernist designer. He was a Russian emigre who came to London via the October Revolution of 1917. He was described as “feisty, mercurial, charming and a great storyteller, he soon made his mark with the English intellectual elite.”

Education

He studied architecture in Moscow and Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Atelier Perret, Paris.

Biography

He supervised the construction of the Soviet pavilion by Konstantin Mel ’inkov at the 1925 Paris ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.’

Between 1927—30, he collaborated with Jean Ginsburg in Paris.

In 1930, he settled in London. In 1932, Lubetkin, Anthony Chitty, Lindsey Drake, Michael Dugdale, Valentine Harding, Godfrey Samuel, and R.T.F. Skinner formed the Tecton architectural partnership.

In 1934, Harding and Samuel departed, forming a partnership together; subsequently, Chitty and Dugdale left. After Tecton was dissolved, the partnership of Skinner, Bailey and Lubetkin was formed.

Tecton Years

At Tecton, Lubetkin was best known for his 1933—34 penguin pool at the Regent’s Park Zoo, London, a celebrated example of 1930s Functionalist architecture in England. Tecton’s other work included,

  • Regent’s Park, the 1932 Gorilla House,
  • 1935—37 Studio of Animal Art, and
  • 1936—37 New Elephant House; at
  • Whipsnade Zoo, the 1934—36 Giraffe House and Shelter and 1934—37 New Elephant House and Shelter; Dudley Zoo;
  • 1938— 39 Finsbury Health Centre, London;
  • 1933—35 Highpoint I and 1936—38 Highpoint II in Highgate, London;
  • houses at Bognor Regis, Dulwich, Farnham, Gidea Park, and Haywards Heath;
  • 1934—36 bungalows at Whipsnade; various projects including first-prize-winning design for the 1935 ‘Competition for working- class flats in reinforced concrete.’
  • Lubetkin also worked on the planning of Peterlee New Town.
  • He received the 1982 RIBA gold medal.

Views on Modern Movement 1920s and 1930s

Concerning his views on the modern movement (the 1920s and 1930s), he said it was “Glorifying reason in human affairs, getting rid of prejudice and facing reality as it is.” About his Highpoint towers and building them high. He explained that “Highpoint had to accommodate a certain amount of people on a restricted site and that in itself dictated the height of it. ” There was the emotional impact of a white thing, standing on top of the cliffs and waiting for the winds of change to come.” It was a romantic vision; utility and imagination were to go hand in hand.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

Glancey, J., & Glancey, J. (2013). Modern Architecture. Goodman.

Nuttgens, P. (1989). The Home Front: Housing The People 1840-1990. BBC Books.

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