Archives & Library

Dennis Sharp Archive

Dennis Sharp (1933-2010) was an architect, designer, author and teacher. The Centre holds Sharp’s archive, which comprises material compiled in the course of his research on the architecture of Connell, Ward and Lucas. The archive is fully catalogued and available for research. This spotlight feature highlights some of the key themes that emerge from the archive and some of the treasures which it contains.

Attitudes to Modern Architecture

Whilst the so-called modern movement in architecture had taken hold throughout much of Europe by the 1930s, England was still relatively conservative in its tastes by the time the Connell, Ward and Lucas practice was established. Their modernist designs, which were often regarded as controversial, were therefore regularly hindered by opposition.

'Frognal case'

"This building is a slab"
"...a monstrosity..."
"I suggest that this building is an outrage"

66 Frognal, a private house designed for Geoffrey Walford, a solicitor, in Hampstead in 1936, is one such example of the controversy caused by Connell, Ward and Lucas. The 'Frognal case' (as it became known in the press) caused much dissent. Local residents and planning officials, as well as noted architects and politicians argued over whether such a house should be built. Above are just some of the opinions about the design of the house which were voiced at the London County Council meeting in 1938. The case was eventually taken to High Court by Walford and won.

The tension between traditionalists and modernists was epitomised in the, now famous, debate between Sir Reginald Blomfield and Connell in For and Against Modern Architecture, a broadcast by BBC radio in 1934, during which Connell robustly defended the firm's designs and the principles of the modernist movement.   

However the lengthy planning battles and appearances in the press irritated and impeded Connell, Ward and Lucas as it delayed progress in their work and (most likely) put off potential clients who could not face such a drawn-out and public battle.

Many of the buildings by Connell, Ward and Lucas are now regarded as of architectural significance and have received listed status. However their designs still divide opinion and feature in the press. For example, when the owner of Greenside, a private property built by Connell, Ward and Lucas in 1937 and listed in 1974, proposed that the building should be demolished, arguments from both sides were heated. After the building was unlawfully demolished in 2004, the owner was required to pay a considerable fine, following a public campaign launched by the Twentieth Century Society.

Related records in the Dennis Sharp Archive

Record Reference
Contemporary architecture in the 1930s DCS/2/5
66 Frognal and G. H. Walford DCS/2/7/17 
The debate between Connell and Sir Reginald Blomfield DCS/2/2/1
Contentious designs, involving lengthy planning battles: High and Over DCS/2/6/2
Contentious designs, involving lengthy planning battles: The Sun House DCS/2/6/5 
Contentious designs, involving lengthy planning battles: Flat Roof House DCS/2/6/14
Contentious designs, involving lengthy planning battles: Potcroft DCS/2/7/24
Greenside, also known as Bracken DCS/2/7/22