Frederick Gibberd (1908 – 1984) – Encyclopedia Design
Sir Frederick Gibberd, a prominent architect, played a pivotal role in shaping the modern architectural landscape of Britain. Known for his innovative designs and departure from traditional conventions, Gibberd’s work left an indelible mark on some of the country’s most significant structures. This article explores the key highlights of Gibberd’s career, including his contributions to the New Town of Harlow, the development of London’s Heathrow Airport, and his most renowned masterpiece, the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool.
Early Career and the Emergence of Modernism
During the 1930s, Sir Frederick Gibberd emerged as one of Britain’s earliest proponents of the new modern architectural style. He embraced the cubic-shaped modernist approach, characterized by clean lines, simplicity, and functionality. Gibberd’s early career showcased his ability to blend modernism with practicality, setting the stage for his subsequent achievements.
“I believe that architecture is not just about creating structures, but about shaping the environment and improving the lives of those who inhabit it. It is a responsibility and a privilege to design spaces that inspire and uplift, while also serving practical purposes.”
Designing Harlow: A Vision of New Town Living
In the post-World War II era, Britain experienced a building boom as the country sought to rebuild and expand. Gibberd was pivotal in designing the plan and principal buildings for the New Town of Harlow, starting in 1947. His vision for Harlow embraced modernist principles, incorporating spacious housing, green spaces, and efficient infrastructure. Gibberd created a vibrant and livable community by seamlessly blending architecture with urban planning.
Transforming Heathrow Airport: A Gateway to the World
From 1950 to 1970, Gibberd embarked on a significant project to design administrative and terminal buildings at London’s Heathrow Airport. Recognizing the airport’s growing importance as an international hub, Gibberd’s designs focused on functionality, ease of navigation, and aesthetics. His innovative approach to airport design set new standards in the industry, and his buildings became iconic symbols of travel and modernity.
The Masterpiece of Liverpool: The Roman Catholic Cathedral
Sir Frederick Gibberd’s most celebrated achievement is undoubtedly the design of Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. In 1960, Gibberd’s design was selected to replace an earlier, larger project envisioned by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Gibberd’s cathedral, constructed with reinforced concrete and brickwork faced in Portland stone, represented a departure from tradition.
Breaking away from the conventional cruciform layout, Gibberd’s cathedral embraced a circular design marked by minimal decoration and a focus on simplicity. The interior featured plain, wooden bench pews centred around a modest altar. Above the circular base, a bell-tent-shaped roof added a unique architectural element.
The crowning glory of the cathedral was a towering cylinder of stained glass, casting a mesmerizing blue light upon the interior. Symbolically, a band of slender metal spikes adorned the top, representing the crown of thorns. This unconventional and striking design earned the cathedral the local nickname of the ‘Mersey Funnel,’ cementing its status as a landmark in modern church architecture.
Dormer, P. (1991, September 12). The Illustrated Dictionary of Twentieth Century Designers.