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Royal College of Physicians
11 St Andrews Place, Camden, London, UK
Royal College of Physicians
associated engineer
Ove Arup & Partners
date  1960 - 1964, 1996
era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  TQ286824
photo  Jane Joyce
Now a Grade I listed building and admired as a bold execution of uncompromising and, some say, visually harsh concrete construction, architect Denys Lasdun's decision to place a late Modern Movement structure alongside the Nash terraces that flank London's Regent's Park was controversial at the time.
Lasdun, a graduate of the Architectural Association, was a junior member of the Tecton group of architects founded in the 1930s, with which engineer Ove Arup had been closely associated. In 1958, Lasdun was commissioned to design a new home for the Royal College of Physicians on the site they had acquired next to Regent's Park. The John Nash-designed house that once stood there was damaged by World War II bombing and permission to demolish was granted. The College traces its London roots back to 1518.
Although Arup had only limited involvement with the detailed design of this project, it was his close association with the Modern Movement architects that brought the project into the offices of Ove Arup & Partners. Interestingly, it was during design discussions with Lasdun that details emerged of Arup's plan to found Arup Associates, a cross-disciplinary practice that would bring architects and engineers into the one firm. Both Lasdun and Basil Spence, architect for Coventry Cathedral on which Ove Arup & Partners was engaged at the time, were very critical of this plan, which nevertheless came to fruition in 1963.
The new building for the Royal College of Physicians is undoubtedly a landmark in architecural design. However, its structural engineering is straighforward and serves the architectural requirements. The building's library and function rooms are expressed on its exterior in the form of two large rectilinear above-ground levels that step out progressively from each other. On the entrance facade these are supported by just three slender concrete columns two in front and one behind and a bit less visible.
The two levels are constructed in concrete and clad in off-white mosaic tiles, a widely-used technique in the 1960s. The ground floor is clad in dark blue engineering bricks.
The large spans of the upper level facade are made possible by the use of pre-stressed concrete beams.
Thirty-two years after the completion of the building, Lasdun was commissioned to design a second lecture theatre and a Council Chamber, which were added on the north side, in sympathy with the original.
Architect: Sir Denys Lasdun
Main contractor: G.E. Wells & Sons
Research: ND
bibliography
"Structures and Construction in Historic Building Conversion" by Michael Forsyth
Vol. 3, John Wiley & Sons, 2007
Architects Journal Building Study, June 30th 1960, pp987-992
www.rcplondon.ac.uk
Location

Royal College of Physicians