Sir Colin St John Wilson

(1922—2007) architect

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English architect. With J. L. Martin he was very influential at the School of Architecture, University of Cambridge (where he and Martin designed the Corbusier-inspired brick and raw-concrete blocky Extension C 1958–9), and, with Martin, designed several university buildings, including the inward-looking, remorselessly hard terraced brick-built Harvey Court, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (1958–62—influenced by Aalto and Kahn), and the Law, Economics, and Statistics Libraries, Manor Road, Oxford (1961–4), which explored the themes of the fragmented courtyard and the stepped terrace. Their eight-storey brick William Stone Residential Building, Peterhouse, Cambridge (1962–4), shows influences again from Aalto. Other designs (by Wilson alone) include two houses, 2 and 2a Grantchester Road (1961–4—described by Pevsner as ‘memorable’), and Spring House, Conduit Head Road (1967—about which Pevsner was less enthusiastic), both in Cambridge. In 1962 Wilson and Martin were commissioned to design the British Library opposite the British Museum in Bloomsbury, but Conservationists opposed the destruction of so much earlier fabric in the area. In 1977–9, Wilson designed the West Wing Extension to the Museum, an uncompromisingly Modernist solution grafted on to Smirke's great building, and in due course was commissioned to design the new British Library on a different site on the Euston Road, London, beside Scott's huge frontage to St Pancras Railway Station. Begun in 1982 and completed in 1998, the Library is his largest work, displaying affinities with some of his earlier designs. The hard red-brick exterior is a dour neighbour of Scott's great pile, demonstrating the Modern Movement's chronic problems with context, but some of the interiors rise to the occasion. He has published many articles, and in 1994 his book, Architectural Reflections, appeared.

Architectural Review, cxxvi/750 (Jul. 1959), 42–8, clxiv/982 (Dec. 1978), 336–44;Kalman (1994);Frampton et al. (1997);Hind (ed.) (1997);RIBA Journal (Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects), ser. 3 lxxxvi/3 (Mar. 1979), 107–15;Jane Turner (1996);C. Wilson (ed.) (1988, 1995)

Subjects: Architecture.

Reference entries