Childhood & Early Life
Born on March 29, 1869, into a Victorian family of London, Edwin Landseer Lutyens was the 10th of the 13 children (and the ninth son) of Mary Theresa Gallwey and Captain Charles Henry Augustus Lutyens. His father was a soldier and painter. Lutyens was also known by his nickname, “Ned.”
Growing up, Lutyens suffered from rheumatic fever and thus could not attend regular school. This turned out to be a boon in disguise, as he got ample time to spend with his mother, which strengthened their bond.
He received tuitions from his sisters' governess and one of his elder brothers, during his school holidays.
Lutyens believed that if he had gone to a school, he would not have got the time to polish the talents he possessed. The deprivation made him a good thinker and observer.
He used the extra time to pursue his interests in drawing and mathematics. He even devised a sketchpad, using a square sheet of plain glass, through which he would look at buildings and trace their outlines with sharpened soap-sticks.
By 15, he had already displayed his architectural skills. Ralph Caldecott, a Surrey illustrator, inspired him a lot.
He studied architecture at the 'South Kensington School of Art' (now the 'Royal College') from 1885 to 1887. He, however, did not complete the course. The following year, he began an internship at the firm of Ernst George and Harold Peto, where he first met renowned English architect Sir Herbert Baker. He later shared an unhappy collaboration for the Delhi planning project with Baker.
Lutyens regarded the end of his partnership with Baker as "Bakerloo."
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In 1888, at the age of 19, he began his private practice as an architect. In 1889, he was commissioned to design a small private house in Crooksbury, near Farnham in Surrey. While working on the project, he got acquainted with landscape garden designer and horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll, who influenced Lutyens's style to a great extent.
Soon after starting his private practice, he modified the traditional designs of local Surrey buildings while being heavily inspired by Philip Webb and William Morris. English architect Maxwell Ayrton assisted Lutyens in his projects.
In 1896, Lutyens began working on his first independent project to design Jekyll's home at Munstead Wood in Godalming, Surrey. Since then, they became business partners, designing houses with what came to be known as the "Lutyens-Jekyll" garden.
Lutyens's designs were soon featured in the lifestyle journal 'Country Life,' owned by Edward Hudson, who admired his style. Hudson commissioned the architect to design his 'Lindisfarne Castle' and the offices of his magazine's headquarters in London. Soon, Lutyens’s fame was at its peak.
Some of his “arts and crafts”-style country houses designed around the time were the 'Tigbourne Court' (Wormley) and the 'Orchards' (Bramley) in Surrey; the 'Goddards' (Abinger Common), the 'Deanery Garden' (Sonning), and the 'Folly Farm' (Sulhamstead) in Berkshire; the 'Overstrand Hall' in Norfolk; and the 'Le Bois des Moutiers' in Normandy, France.
His designs are categorized into three general styles, namely, the Romantic Vernacular, the Neo-Georgian, and the Neo-Classical. He was more interested in designing nurseries and nursery furnishings than buildings.
By 1900, Lutyens's designs shifted to conventional Classicism. He was influenced by 19th-century architecture, such as the works of Richard Norman Shaw, and also by the English Renaissance style.
Toward the end of the First World War, he began designing the 'Imperial War Graves Commission' (presently the 'Commonwealth War Graves Commission'), along with several other war monuments, cemeteries, and war memorials, such as the 'Beattie and Jellicoe fountains' in Trafalgar Square.
Among his most notable works of the time were two memorials: the 'Cenotaph' in Whitehall, which he had completed designing in a few hours, and the 'Thiepval Arch' in France.
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Some of his most notable works in Ireland were the 'Irish National War Memorial Gardens' in Islandbridge, Dublin; the 'Heywood Gardens'; 'County Laois'; 'Lambay Island'; and the 'Costelloe Lodge' at Casla.
In 1907, Lutyens designed the granite structure 'Tra na Rossan House' in the northern Downings of the Rosguill Peninsula in County Donegal, Ulster, which served as the holiday home of Mr. and Mrs. Phillimore from London.
From 1908, he focused on office buildings, such as the new 'Hampstead Garden' suburb and the civic center. He also designed two churches around that time.
Lutyens designed ‘Middlefield,’ a mansion in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire (1908), in the Neo-Georgian style, which he jokingly referred to as the "Wrenniassance Style," named after the English baroque architect Christopher Wren.
In 1909, he worked as a consulting architect at international exhibitions in Turin and Rome. He also traveled to South Africa, where he designed the 'Jo'burg Art Gallery' and the ‘Rand War Memorial.’
In 1910, Lutyens began working on larger civil projects. That year, he was commissioned to design the last castle in England, ‘Castle Drogo,’ near Drewsteignton, Devon (constructed between 1911 and 1930) for Julius Drewe, founder of the 'Home and Colonial Stores.' The castle took 22 years to be completed. One of Lutyens's smaller yet remarkable works was 'The Salutation,' a house in Sandwich, Kent.
The 'Ednaston Manor,' Brailsford, Derbyshire (1912), is a great example of his Neo-Georgian style.
In 1912, he was appointed as the advisor on the 'Planning Commission' of the establishment of British India's new capital, Delhi.
His design was expected to be inspired by Pierre-Charles L'Enfant's design for Washington, D.C. and Christopher Wren’s design for London after the 'Great Fire.' Instead, he planned a garden city.
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The most notable of his buildings in Delhi is the 'Rashtrapati Bhavan' (formerly the 'Viceroy's House,' built from 1912 to 1929), the official residence of the president of India, located at Rajpath. The building was co-designed by him, along with Baker.
The two architects were said to be in constant conflict while working on the ‘Rashtrapati Bhavan.’
The building displays a unique blend of Indian and European architectural styles, which he later used to design 'Campion Hall’ in Oxford.
He also designed the 'Philipson Mausoleum' (1914–1916) at the 'Golders Green Crematorium,' where he was later cremated.
Lutyens was the architect of the war memorial 'India Gate' (established on February 10, 1921), located on the eastern end of Rajpath.
Between 1915 and 1928, Lutyens designed the 'El Guadalperal' palace for the 18th Duke of Peñaranda de Duero. He also designed the 'British Embassy' in Washington, D.C.
While he was working on planning Delhi, Lutyens received several honors, one of them being the ''Knighthood” in 1918. He was also made a 'Royal Academician' in 1920. He received the 'RIBA Royal Gold Medal for Architecture' in 1921, a lifetime membership of the 'Royal Fine Art Commission' in 1924, and the 'American Institute of Architects Gold Medal' in 1925.
Lutyens had also designed the 'Hyderabad House' (built from 1926 to 1928) in Delhi, which the ‘Government of India’ used for banquets and meetings with foreign dignitaries.
The construction of the 'Queen Mary's Dolls' House' began in the early 1920s. Though the project was not significant, Lutyens thoroughly enjoyed designing the building. His dedication to this relatively insignificant project, when he already had a more important project (building the new headquarters for the 'Persian Oil Company') was highly appreciated.
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That decade also witnessed Lutyens's designs in the 'Britannic House' for the 'Anglo-Persian Oil Company' (now ‘BP’) and three new banks for '100 King Street' (formerly the 'Midland Bank'), all in London.
In 1929, he was commissioned to build a Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpool. Its construction began in 1933. The project was interrupted due to World War II and eventually could not be completed because of a shortage of funds. The original model of the building was given the to the 'Walker Art Gallery' in 1975 and is currently on display at the 'Museum of Liverpool.'
The 'Liria Palace,' a neoclassical building in Madrid, was brutally damaged during the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939). The 17th Duke of Alba commissioned Lutyens to reconstruct the palace. The two had known each other since the former was the Spanish ambassador to the ‘Court of St. James's.’
In 1938, Lutyens became president of the 'Royal Academy.'
Family, Personal Life & Death
In 1897, Lutyens married Emily Lytton, daughter of a former viceroy of India. It was an unhappy union because of their different interests.
By 1908, they had five children: Barbra, Robert, Ursula, Elisabeth, and Mary.
Lutyens could never be a companion to Lytton. Eventually, she got busy with her household chores and other pursuits, which led them to drift apart socially, too.
Following this, Lutyens began attending social events without his wife. However, he was at ease, cracking jokes and flirting mildly with his hostesses. This added to his reputation as a perfect guest, who was both high-spirited and humorous.
Only Emily knew the real nature of Lutyens. He had displayed his seriousness in the letters he had written to her during his stay in India.
In his final years of his life, Lutyens suffered from pneumonia. He was also diagnosed with cancer toward the beginning of the 1940s.
He breathed his last on January 1, 1944.