Obituary: Sadie Martin

Sadie Speight, architect and designer, born Standish Lancashire 26 May 1906, married 1935 Leslie Martin (one son, one daughter), died Great Shelford Cambridgeshire 23 October 1992.

SADIE SPEIGHT (Lady Martin) contributed to architecture and design all her life.

In a foreword to the catalogue of the RIBA exhibition 'British Women in Architecture 1671- 1951' (1951), Lynne Walker describes the work of women in architecture during and after the war period. 'Among the women who designed for the applied arts,' she writes, 'none was more versatile and energetic than Sadie Speight, whose work included product, textile, interior design as well as shop-window displays.' Since this period her energies were notably injected into the outstanding career of her husband Sir Leslie Martin, the architect of the Festival Hall and, from 1956 to 1972, Professor of Architecture at Cambridge. They formed a partnership second to none.

Sadie Speight was born in Lancashire in 1906, where her father was a doctor. She and her equally bright sister Kathleen were educated at St Mary's and St Anne's, Abbots Bromley, and Manchester University. In the School of Architecture, she graduated in 1929 with first class honours. A Prix de Rome finalist, she also won the Zimmern Travelling Fellowship which gave her further study abroad. In 1930 she was awarded the RIBA's silver medal and elected an associate. In 1932 she held the Faulkner Fellowship and the year following gained her Masters degree.

Seven years previously, in 1927, her fellow student Leslie Martin purchased an engagement ring. They were married in 1935. During this period strong friendships were forged with a group of artists and sculptors, Herbert Read's 'a gentle nest of Artists'. Work had begun on Circle, a manifesto of Constructivist art, with Leslie Martin as joint editor with Naum Gabo and Ben Nicholson. It was published in 1937.

Most of the contents of the Martins' home dated from this period, from the early Thirties, with chairs by Serge Chermayeff and Marcel Breuer, tables by Alvar Aalto, lights by Jorn Utzon and even a coffee service by Ben Nicholson, and together they put together an extremely interesting collection of contemporary paintings, by, among others, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Henry Moore and Piet Mondrian. In 1938 Herbert Read commissioned Sadie and Leslie Martin as joint authors of The Flat Book, a reference book on contemporary furniture, fabrics and household products.

In post-war Britain the emphasis was on design for everyday mass-produced products. The Council of Industrial Design was set up to promote well-designed goods and the Design Research Unit, which included Sadie Speight as a founder member, was formed to make designer skills available to industry. Sadie Speight's enthusiasm produced designs for products such as kettles, electric irons and textiles that were way ahead of their time.

From the Fifties onwards as well as undertaking a number of interesting interior-design commissions she continued to give enthusiastic support to her husband. When Sir Leslie Martin received the RIBA Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 1973 the citation read: 'A truly outstanding contribution to architecture and planning, both through his private and public practice, and most notably as a leading figure in architectural teaching and research.' As Martin said in his Building and Ideas (1983), 'Sadie Speight has made her own very special contribution to my work throughout the whole of my professional career'.

In her eighties her flair continued with colourful conversions of an apple store and stables as beautiful and secluded retreats for her husband and herself in Norfolk. She had a son and daughter who both trained as architects, and six grandchildren.

She was full of energy and would bound up three steps at a time: it was doubly sad that in her last months she should suffer from the physically debilitating motor- neurone disease.

Sadie Martin loved all things visual and made a contribution in her own right and with her husband to the very best in design

today.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy