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Wallis, Thomas

Wallis, Thomas (1873–1953). English architect. When articled to Sidney Robert James Smith (1858–1913), Wallis designed the Tate Gallery, London (1892–97), usually attributed solely to Smith. On his own account he won (1904) a competition to design Herne Hill Public Library, and in 1908 established his own practice with James Albert Bowden (1876–1949). Wallis's undoubted success (several of his works were published) brought him to the attention of the Kahn family in America. Moritz Kahn (1881–c.1939) had established the Trussed Concrete Steel Company in Britain in 1909 to promote reinforced-concrete structures using the Kahn ‘Truscon’ System, but the firm needed a British architect who would understand the possibilities and commit himself to the design of industrial architecture. Wallis saw his chance, and in 1914 established a new practice, Wallis, Gilbert, & Partners: the identity of ‘Gilbert’ has not been established, but later partners included Wallis's son, Douglas T. Wallis (1901–68) and J. W. MacGregor (d.1994). From its inception the firm specialized in industrial buildings that often consisted of an attractive and colourful front (Wallis was aware of buildings as advertisements, capable of selling a product) concealing the works behind, and employing the systems invented by Albert Kahn and his dynamic family. Moreover, the firm's factories and offices pioneered environmental control and a concern for the well-being of employees. Wallis, Gilbert, & Partners was one of the most successful architectural firms of the time in Britain, producing bright, clean, light, well-designed industrial buildings, among which may be cited the Caribonum Factory, Leyton (1918), the Solex Factory, Marylebone Road (1925), Wrigley's Factory, Wembley (1926), the Shannon Factory, Kingston (1928), the Firestone Tyre Factory, Brentford, Middx. (1928–9—demolished 1980), the Pyrene Factory, Western Avenue (1930), and the masterly, colourful, Egyptianizing Art-Deco Modernistic Hoover Factory at Perivale on Western Avenue (1931–8—Pevsner hated it, calling it ‘offensive’), all in or near London. Other works included the British Bemberg Factory, Doncaster, Yorks. (1931), the Daimler Hire Garage, Herbrand Street, London (1931), the Victoria Coach Station, London (1931–2), and smaller coach stations at Amersham, Bucks., Hemel Hempstead and Hertford, Herts., Reigate, Surrey, and Windsor, Berks.

Bibliography

Architectural Review, clvi/929 (July 1974), 21–7;
Architecture, vii/8 (1929), 61–73;
J. Curl (2005);
Hitchmough (1992);
RIBA Journal (Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects), ser. 3, xl/8 (25 Feb. 1933), 301–12;
Skinner (1997);
Twentieth-Century Architecture, i (1994), 12–22.

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