Herbert James Rowse (1887–1963) was an extraordinary architect who shaped the city of Liverpool with his array of exquisite buildings, plans, and infrastructure. Practicing in an eclectic manner that was influenced by American Beaux Arts and later using simpler geometries of monumental bare brick, his large body of work reveals a modernity that was concerned with luxurious materials, restrained but contemporary decoration and sculpture, and bold forms often with a sense of theatre and performance. His work has endured passing trends and fashions, retaining a seductive appeal and resonance with visitors and occupants alike, despite its often monumental massing and extraordinary scale.
This book aims to discern not only the architectural merits and advances of his work, but also their wider significance. Through Rowse’s work we gain a glimpse into some of the broader agendas of the time and place, not least through the corporate and banking commissions that accompanied the large docks and shipping firms in Liverpool, where Rowse produced some of his most distinctive work. In addition to these commercial ventures Rowse contributed to the post-war housing debates through his proposals that looked to rows of cottages set around village greens, rather than high-rise living.
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Libraries, fire stations, health centres, town halls and police stations – once a stable presence in the high streets of Britain, are now threatened by demolition or insensitive conversion. They embodied high standards of materials and craftsmanship that formed the image of public service.
McMorran & Whitby are a secret presence in post-war British Architecture. Led from the late 1950s by Donald McMorran and George Whitby, the practice represented an unbroken development from the monumental inter-war classicism represented by figures such as Charles Holden and Sir Edwin Lutyens.