Baker, Sir Herbert

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Baker, Sir Herbert (1862–1946). Kent-born architect who worked for Ernest George and Harold Peto (1882–7) before opening his own office and then emigrating to Cape Colony, South Africa. He quickly became a protégé of Cecil John Rhodes (1853–1902) and Lord Milner (1854–1925), under whose aegis he began to create a distinctive architecture for British South Africa, drawing together English vernacular elements, aspects of the Arts-and-Crafts movement, Dutch Colonial architecture, Baroque architecture of the Wren Revival, and much else. He adapted his eclectic style for later buildings in Rhodesia, Kenya, India, and England. For Rhodes he built the house known as Groote Schuur, Rondebosch (1893–8), in which Dutch-Colonial elements were well to the fore, followed by Government Buildings in Bloemfontein, and the masterly Union Buildings, Pretoria (1909–13), with twin cupolas derived from Wren's work at Greenwich. Baker was then appointed joint architect (with Lutyens) for the design of the Imperial Capital of New Delhi, and designed (from 1913) the north and south Secretariat Blocks as well as the circular Legislative Building. At New Delhi he introduced Indian architectural features such as chattris, and successfully combined Western and Eastern elements. Baker set up an office in London in 1912, and in 1917 he was appointed Principal Architect to the Imperial War Graves Commission, in which capacity he encouraged design of the highest calibre. Thereafter, he was responsible for some of the most grandiose developments in London, including the enormous Bank of England works (1921–39) which destroyed Soane's building (apart from the screen-wall), India House (1925), and South Africa House (1930–5) in Trafalgar Square. These buildings cannot really be described as wholly successful, for Baker seems to have been happier using Classicism with a strong dose of Arts-and-Crafts influence: in this respect his beautifully articulated war-memorial cloister at Winchester College, Hants. (1922–5), demonstrates a sensitivity not so apparent in his grander buildings.

Bibliography

H. Baker (1934, 1944);
A. S. Gray (1985);
Greig (1970);
Irving (1981);
Keath (1992);
Stamp (1977)