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Sir William Whitfield

(b. 1920)


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(1920– ).

English architect. His design-method is largely dependent on separating functions (e.g. ‘served’ and ‘serving’ areas), expressing them as architectural forms. Among his works are the Library and Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery Extension, University of Glasgow (1962–81), expressed as a series of powerful verticals finished in rectilinear bush-hammered concrete. Within the Gallery is a re-creation of Mackintosh's house at 78 Southpark Avenue (1906), demolished by the University in 1963. He also designed the extension (1964–70) to the fine Institute of Chartered Accountants Building by Beresford Pite and John Belcher (1892), including a new entrance based on the Pite–Belcher idiom. His Department of Health, Richmond Terrace, Whitehall, London (1987), with its striped exterior and carefully modelled vertical elements, responds to Norman Shaw's New Scotland Yard (1890) near by, and also suggests something of the Gothic, an allusion, perhaps, to the lost Tudor buildings of Whitehall Palace. Whitfield has often favoured load-bearing construction to create a sense of permanence and monumentality, as in his powerful brick Chapter House at St Alban's Cathedral, Hertfordshire (1975–83), and the massive block at Bessborough Street, Pimlico, London (1980–4), both of which successfully exploit the segmental arch. More recently (1995), his masterly red sandstone Cathedral Library at Hereford has enhanced his reputation as a sensitive contextual designer. Like Scarpa, Schattner, and other Continental architects, Whitfield can respond intelligently to existing buildings in historic settings and create new architecture that is vigorous yet well mannered.

PoA, xx/2 (Dec. 1995/Jan. 1996), 32–9;personal knowledge;Williamson, Riches, & Higgs (1990)

Subjects: Architecture.


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