Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944), known as Ned, was a famous English architect of his time, known for designing and updating many of the grand English historic homes and buildings which currently survive today. He was also responsible for designing many public building and war memorials across the globe.
Considered by many to be the greatest English architect since Sir Christopher Wren, Lutyens was certainly the most influential architect of the 20th century. His prolific work was widely known across the globe; he played an important part in designing New Delhi, now the capital and seat of government of India, and was responsible for the Viceroy’s House and the massive All India War Memorial Arch. Lutyens also designed the Thiepval Arch on the Somme and the British Embassy building in Washington, DC among many other noteworthy constructions.
Edwin Lutyens was born in Kensington, London and raised in Thursley, Surrey. He studied at the Royal College of Art in London before joining a firm of architects owned by Ernest George and Harold Peto (whose garden at Iford Manor is one of our favourite gardens at Violets and Tea). Lutyens left in 1888 to set up his own practice.
His first commission was a private house in Crooksbury where he met the famous landscape gardener Gertude Jekyll. They would go on to form an influential and prolific professional partnership. Jekyll later commissioned him to design a home for her at Munstead Wood. Now a Grade I listed house, Jekyll was known to have contributed her own ideas to the design which included many features later attributed to Lutyens’ style. Together they worked on many projects, creating a new type of architectural garden; with Lutyens creating the skeletal structure with Jekyll providing the complementary free-form planting and floral decoration. This style came to define the Arts & Crafts movement and has been highly influential in garden design ever since.
Buttressed chimneys, sweeping rooflines and long runs of windows with small doors became Lutyen’s hallmark as he designed country houses with added touches of local influences for many wealthy clients. At Great Dixter, another of our favourite gardens, he added knee high windows in the top story so that small children could view the gardens below even though they were diminutive in size. Edward Hudson greatly admire Lutyens’ works and frequently featured them in his magazine Country Life. Hudson commissioned Lutyens to work on several significant projects including Lindisfarne Castle and the magazine headquarters at 8 Tavistock St, London.
Later commissions included Folly Farm, Berkshire; Overstrand Hall, Norfolk; Midland Bank, Manchester and magnificent Castle Drogo in Devon. He also supervised the detailed construction of Queen Mary’s Dolls House, now on display in Windsor Castle.
In 1910, Lutyens moved into designing larger civil projects and was chosen to design the plan for the new Indian capital, Delhi. He created a garden city, modeled on a series of hexagons separated by tree-lined avenues. In 1918, he was knighted and was elected as a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1920.
Following World War I, Lutyens became the architect for the Imperial War Graves Commission and designed the London Cenotaph in Whitehall. He also created the simple stepped Great War Stone or Stone of Remembrance which was used in war cemeteries and memorial sites commemorating the deaths of more than 1000 graves. They can be seen across France, Belgium, Berlin, the Netherlands and Hong Kong.
Lutyens died aged 74 and his ashes were buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.