National Life Stories: Architects' Lives

The Floral Hall in the Royal Opera House
The Floral Hall, with mirrored wall, part of the Royal Opera House redevelopment, Dixon Jones with BDP, 1983-1999

National Life Stories' Architects' Lives was established in 1995 to document the life and work of British architects and their associates over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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National Life Stories’ Architects’ Lives was established in 1995 and provides a rare opportunity for British architects and those in associated professions to discuss in detail their life and work and the intersection between the two.  

Amongst the earliest participants were members of the generation born in the first decades of the twentieth century, who experienced the Second World War and its aftermath. The collection documents the cultural impact of the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the political impact of the 1948 Labour government’s unrivalled building programme. This was initiated primarily to repair and replace much of the housing and public buildings damaged by under-investment in the 1930s and war in the 1940s. This political desire was assisted by a new wave of teaching in architecture schools which encouraged students to forefront the social context when thinking about building, and to do so within a modernist framework.    

It also traces the moment when the profession began to question aspects of the modern movement. At a similar time, the change in government in 1979 had a profound impact on state funded public building, particular social housing. By the millennium, lottery funding provided finance for cultural projects across the nation, such as The Lowry in Salford Quays and the Royal Opera House in London. There was renewed interest in historical context and urban placemaking – documented in the regeneration of Kings Cross and the Olympic Park and its legacy. 

As well as charting the physical transformation of urban centres in the twentieth and twenty-first century, the collection also eavesdrops onto the personal relationships which connected many of the emerging architects and practices. These include Neave Brown, Adrian Gale, John Miller, and Kenneth Frampton, who met as students at the Architectural Association in the 1950s, as did Isi Metzstein and Andy MacMillan in Scotland in the same period. It also charts other fundamental changes within the profession, from drawing as a craft process to one enabled by computer technology, innovations in building technology and materials, and most recently the architectural response to the challenge of climate change. 

Many interviews from Architects' Lives can be accessed via British Library Sounds. You can discover other recordings on the topic of architecture online in the Architecture category. To explore the collection in detail, please search the Sound and Moving Image catalogue. The catalogue reference used for all the recordings in the project is C467. You can search British Library Sounds and the catalogue by interviewee name - see the recent list of interviewees (PDF, 52KB).

Further information about Architects’ Lives can be found within National Life Stories Annual Reviews, in particular the 2014-2015 Annual Review (PDF, 1.66MB) which focussed on Architects’ Lives and its sister project Artists’ Lives.

Whilst Erno Goldfinger was not recorded for Architects' Lives himself, NLS – in partnership with the National Trust at Willow Road – has added a series of life stories to the collection with people close to him. Extracts were published as a CD in 2004 by NLS and the National Trust entitled Passionate Rationalism: Recollections of Ernö Goldfinger. For more information please contact the curatorial team at

Architects' Lives Advisory Committee

  • Rab Bennetts
  • Catherine Croft
  • Peter Murray
  • Alan Powers
  • Barbara Weiss
  • Ellis Woodman

Project Director: Dr Niamh Dillon

Partners and sponsors

  • Bob Allies
  • Bennetts Associates Ltd
  • Dixon Jones Limited
  • Drawing Matter Trust 
  • Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
  • Goldhammer family
  • Sir Nicholas and Judith Goodison
  • The Graham Foundation
  • Kleinwort
  • Levitt Bernstein
  • The Linbury Trust
  • Lutyens Trust
  • John McAslan
  • Andrew McIntosh Patrick
  • Metropolitan Workshop 
  • The Monument Trust
  • Graham Morrison 
  • The National Trust
  • Eric Parry Architects
  • The Rayne Foundation
  • The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
  • Shepheard Epstein Hunter
  • Solidspace 
  • Stockholm Architecture Museum
  • Keith Williams 


Image: The Floral Hall, with mirrored wall, part of the Royal Opera House redevelopment, Dixon Jones with BDP, 1983-1999.




Sound and video recordings from all over the world

Collection guides

Oral histories of architecture and landscape design

Interviews charting the history of architectural practice in 20th-century Britain

Oral histories of museum and library professionals

Archivists, librarians and curators describe their working lives


National Life Stories

A unique and invaluable record of people’s lives in Britain today

National Life Stories: Artists' Lives

Artists’ lives and work in their own words

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