Birkin Haward

A career intertwined with Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff.

Born in Ipswich in 1912, Haward was an early adopter of Modernism. Articled locally before coming to London to study at Bartlett, he qualified in 1934. It would not be at all logical to think that within a year he would be in Jerusalem working in partnership one of Germany’s greatest modernist architects.  But that is precisely what happened.

Haward had heard that Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff had won the competition to build what is called today De La Warr Pavilion and wanted to be where the modernist action was in England. As soon as he had graduated he joined them in their London office in the Pantheon building on Oxford Street. By the standards of what Mendelsohn had left behind this was exceedingly modest. He’d fled Berlin the previous year, leaving behind the ‘world’s busiest modernist practice’ and in doing so likely saved his life. He arrived in London a refugee, to a city frankly hostile to immigrants, especially if they had a German accent. Chermayeff, a visionary and later Chairman of the Institute of Design in Chicago, formed a partnership with Mendelsohn. Haward would have recognised that he was in the presence of giants.

Haward focused on the Cohen House development at 64 Old Church Street. By 1935 Mendelsohn was in demand overseas and was commissioned to build several buildings in Jerusalem, British Mandate Palestine and Haward joined him. Their partnership ended in ’36 however Haward continued working in Jerusalem until 1938.

The war paused his career and Mendelsohn and Chermayeff left for America. Haward found his way back post-war to Ipswich where he formed a local practice, Johns, Slater and Haward. Notable projects included Rushmere Infant School, winning the Festival of Britain architectural award in 1951. He was also involved in the creation of the new town of Welwyn Garden City and the post war development of Ipswich

His artistry was passed to the next generation, his son also called Birkin Haward trained at the Architectural Association and worked with Norman Foster.

Birkin Haward, architect 1912-2002

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