Scott, Sir Giles Gilbert

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Scott, Sir Giles Gilbert (1880–1960). English architect, one of the more eminent of the first half of C20. The son of ‘Middle’ Scott, he was articled to the latter's pupil, Temple Moore, and was profoundly affected by the work of both men. In his early twenties (1903) he won the second competition to design the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool (1903–80) which occupied him for the rest of his life. Because of his youth and his Roman Catholicism, the Liverpool Cathedral Committee insisted that a senior architect should work with him, and Bodley (who had been one of the competition assessors) was appointed, an arrangement which exasperated Scott, and came to an end with Bodley's death in 1907. The beautiful Lady Chapel was immediately redesigned by Scott, who gave the vaulting a much more German late-Gothic appearance, something further enhanced by the elaborate Flügelaltar. With Bodley out of the way, Scott redesigned the rest of the building, and created a Sublime monument with breathtaking internal volumes, quite unlike any other work of the Gothic Revival. He replaced the twin towers of his winning design with a single mighty battered tower and pairs of transepts, which also helped to create a huge central space. At the same time he simplified the elevations, contrasting massive unadorned sandstone walls with sumptuous detail, and towering verticality with judicious use of horizontals. The choir and the first pair of transepts were completed by 1924; the central tower was finished in 1942; and the first bay of the nave was opened in 1961. The western parts of the Cathedral were completed under Frederick Thomas (1898–1984), who became a partner in Scott's firm in 1953, and senior partner on Scott's death in 1960. Thomas continued to be associated with the Cathedral until 1980, but most of the design drawings for the revised and reduced scheme were the work of Roger Arthur Philip Pinckney (1900–90). Even in its smaller realization, the Cathedral is still a scenic prodigy, a mighty monument to the originality and inventiveness of its architect.

Among Scott's other churches may be mentioned the Annunciation, Bournemouth, Hants. (1905–6), St Joseph, Cromer Road, Sheringham, Norfolk (1908–10—in which a tendency to greatly simplify Gothic forms is very marked), the monumental Our Lady of the Assumption, Northfleet, Kent (1913–16—displaying certain design features that were to reappear at Liverpool Cathedral), St Paul, Stonycroft, Liverpool (1913–16), St Andrew, Luton, Beds. (1931–2), St Francis, Terriers, High Wycombe, Bucks. (1928–30), St Alban, Golders Green, London (1932–3), and the austere RC Cathedral of St Columba, Oban, Argyll (1930–53). One of his most successful churches, with its battered walls, is St Michael, Ashford, Middx. (1927–8). He also designed the completion of the nave at Downside Abbey, Som. (1917–39), several boarding-houses and the Chapel at Ampleforth College, Yorks. (1922–60), and the very fine Chapel at Charter-house School, Godalming, Surrey(1922–7—per-haps one of his most successful buildings). At St Alphege, Bath (1927–30), and the Chapel at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (1931–2), he employed a simple round-arched style instead of Gothic. After the 1914–18 war he designed the Memorial Court, Clare College, Cambridge (1922–32), in a simplified Neo-Georgian style, on the central axis of which is the central tower of his huge Cambridge University library (1930–4). At Oxford he designed the New Bodleian Library opposite Hawksmoor's Clarendon Building (1935–46—a great part of which is below ground thus keeping the visible part of the building low), and Longwall Quad, Magdalen College (1928–9).

Among his best-known designs were the 1924 and 1935 versions of the Post Office cast-iron telephone kiosk, with tops derived from Soane's tomb in London. In 1930 Scott was appointed consultant architect to the London Power Company for the new generating station at Battersea. This huge structure, with chimneys treated like Classical columns, and much Art-Deco detail, demonstrated Scott's sense of the monumental in composition and his control of massing. Even Pevsner admired it. Other commissions followed, including the Guinness Brewery, Park Royal (1933–5), Waterloo Bridge (1932–45), and the rebuilding of the House of Commons at the Palace of Westminster following bomb damage (1944–50—a tactful and very intelligent intervention, much hated by Modernists). He also rebuilt the war-damaged hall of the City of London's Guildhall (1950–4), and designed Bankside Power Station on the south bank of the River Thames opposite St Paul's Cathedral, London (1947–60), his Sublime ‘Cathedral of Power’ with its chimneys treated as one magnificent campanile-like tower. This building is now the Tate Gallery of Modern Art, having been converted by Herzog & De Meuron, who unhappily altered Scott's handsome stepped main elevation.

Scott's last religious buildings were the Carmelite Church, Kensington, London (1954–9—another replacement of a church lost in 1939–45), an RC Church in Preston, Lancs. (1954–9), and the small but lofty Christ the King, Plymouth, Devon (1961–2). However, his post-1939–45-war work was not appreciated in the climate in which International Modernism was enthusiastically and almost universally embraced. He himself was impatient of dogma, be it ‘unintelligent Traditionalism’ or ‘extreme Modernism’, and stated that he would have been happier about the future of architecture ‘had the best ideas of Modernism being grafted upon the best traditions of the past’, and if ‘Modernism had come by evolution rather than by revolution’. Knighted in 1924, he was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1944, and honoured in Norway for advising on the completion of Trondheim Cathedral.


Anno Domini, lxix/10–11 (1979), 72–83;
Cotton (1964);
Gavin Stamp ;
Kennerley (2001);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Stamp & and Harte (1979);
Jane Turner (1996)

Scott, Sir Giles Gilbert

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Scott, Sir Giles Gilbert (1880–1960) British architect. Scott designed the new Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, the last major example of the Gothic revival. His other important works include the New Bodleian Library, Oxford, and Waterloo Bridge over the River Thames, London.

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