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Smithson's Friend: How did the friendship between Peter Smithson and Gordon Ryder influence their work?

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Ruth Baker
University of Bath, UK
In 1939 Gordon Ryder and Peter Smithson entered King's College , Newcastle to study
architecture under Wilfred Edwards. They formed a friendship which would last their lifetime despite embarking on radically different career paths.

Peter Smithson, along with his wife Alison, became acclaimed worldwide as the 'father of
brutalism' and an iconic figure in Team 10, a utopian ideas group. Their large volume of
published work was both influential and controversial in bringing modernist theories to Britain. They built a small number of landmark buildings including the Economics Building and Robin Hood Gardens which aimed to demonstrate their published theories. These buildings and the theories behind them continue to instil debate over fifty years later.

Gordon Ryder remained in the North East of England and, after a short period of time
working for Berthold Lubetkin on the masterplan for Peterlee new town, established a successful multi-disciplinary architectural practice with design partner Peter Yates. They were key to bringing modernism to the North East of England, through a large collection of built work, yet they are relatively unknown outside of this region. Their work includes a number of iconic buildings for the gas industry in Killingworth which won them a number of
Architectural Awards.

This study aims to establish whether the friendship between Gordon Ryder and Peter
Smithson created a shared language between the two architects. It focuses on the 1952
Golden Lane Housing competition which saw entries from over eighty architects and
highlighted the changing attitudes to modernism during the post war period. Both the Smithsons and Gordon Ryder, working with Jack Lynn, entered is competition and, although neither scheme was successful, their submissions do show a remarkable similarity.

Ruth Baker

Prof Vaughan Hart
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