Obituary: Sir Anthony Cox

Anthony Wakefield Cox, architect, Partner ACP 1939-80 (consultant 1980-93), CBE 1972, Kt 1983, married 1943 Susan Babington Smith (two daughters), died London 5 January 1993.

IN 1939 Anthony Cox was one of the 11 original founding partners of the Architects' Co-operative Partnership. ACP, as it soon came to be known, was made up of graduates from the AA School of Architecture, in London. It was loosely modelled on Berthold Lubetkin's Tecton Group which a few years earlier had attracted a number of talented and idealistic AA graduates into the private-practice sector.

However, with war imminent, the embryonic ACP hardly got off the ground before most of its partners found themselves in uniform. Tony Cox served in the Royal Engineers, firstly in Europe - where as an RE Captain he helped restore water supplies to Brussels in 1944 - before completing his service in India.

After demobilisation, Cox spent a couple of years engaged on the Hertfordshire County Council Architects' Department's progressive schools programme before rejoining his former colleagues (reduced to seven, including himself, after the war) in offices in Gordon Square, London, in 1947.

By that time, ACP's first immportant commission had begun shaping up. A modern rubber manufacturing plant was planned for a new post-war development zone in Brynmawr, near Abergavenny, for a subsidiary of the Enfield Cable Company. This firm, under the chairmanship of the visionary industrialist Lord Forrester had employed two of the non-combatant ACP partners during the war years and as soon as two further partners were available after the war they were also engaged by Forrester to develop the design of the factory. Such an arrangement as this allowed the project to appear under the partnership's name before the project was transferred to their new offices.

The Brynmawr Factory is undoubtedly ACP's best-known building. Brilliantly conceived, it was a remarkable example of technical and design progress with its thin concrete shallow-domed umbrella roofs, its pioneering structural servicing 'trees' and underfloor services. When opened it received enormous international coverage.

Today its present state of dereliction belies the fact that it was one of the first post- war buildings in Britain to be listed. But now it no longer serves any useful purpose. At Brynmawr, Cox was responsible for the entrance pavilion with its Festival of Britain design overtones. He was immensely proud of the building and its history. He often recounted the story of Frank Lloyd Wright's visit to it recalling not only that the great man urinated up one of the columns but found it somewhat disappointing. It was clearly too Corbusian.

Although Cox had been largely responsible for editing Wright's Organic Architecture lectures given at the RIBA in 1939 during the time he acted as Editorial Assistant to Edward 'Bobby' Carter's RIBA Journal, he later confessed that he felt the Grand Old Man's views on architecture were not 'Modern' in Le Corbusier's revolutionary sense.

ACP's ideological position in architecture was based firmly on Le Corbusier's pre-war Modernist tenets. Almost all the partners, and Cox was no exception, taught at the AA School on a part-time basis. In 1962-63 Cox served as the Association's President.

Cox was a good and thoughtful teacher who conveyed an air of practical reality coupled with didactic purpose. Such a commitment to practical polemics among the socialist idealists of the AA at that time was, to say the least, rather unusual. But ACP came as near as any firm to establishing a technologically and socially progressive architectural base in pragmatic post-war Britain. In a sense they were the private counterpart to the LLC Architect's Department and the County consortia. Their major strength lay in a commitment to research, particularly in relation to new and developing building types such as schools, colleges and universities, specialist hospital units and science buildings. This specialisation led eventually to prison commissions and health-care buildings, a subject on which Cox with his ACP partner Philip Groves was to provide a definitive appraisal in Design for Health Care (1981).

The analytical nature of architectural practice clearly appealed to Cox who in almost 40 years was responsible for some 60 projects. The practice was research-based although at the time much of the empirical knowledge and experience gained was seen as an essential part of the design process.

Cox's projects for ACP range from a number of early schools in the mid-Fifties onwards in the Coventry area, the Chemistry Department's Teaching and Research Building at Leicester University (1957) to a number of structures at the Maudsley Hospital including the Institute of Psychiatry in the 1960s and 1970s, and the hostel and auditorium (now the Greenwood Theatre) at Guy's Hospital (1969), in London. One scheme that he designed but did not build in the mid-Seventies was a low-tech non- air-conditioned four-storey hospital in Khartoum which was quite unlike the highly serviced and sophisticated buildings that ACP had begun to carry out in Saudi Arabia. His partner Michael Grice recalls it as being a project that Cox, the thoughtful and practical idealist, was particularly proud of.

To the immediate post-war generations of architects, Cox will perhaps be best remembered as one of the profession's intellectuals who, in the late Thirties, when editor of the highly influential student journal Focus (four issues), criticised Berthold Lubetkin for his romantically classic approach in the designs for the entrance to the Highpoint 2 flats in Highgate, north London. Although in hindsight it now appears to have been a rather insubstantial argument that lacked an understanding of European architectural commitments, it set a tone and a standard for the critical debates that were to follow. To have influenced so many for so long is no mean achievement.

(Photographs omitted)

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions