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)

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

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone