21 Facts About Basil Spence


Basil Spence was educated at the John Connon School, operated by the Bombay Scottish Education Society, and was then sent back to Scotland to attend George Watson's College in Edinburgh from 1919 to 1925.


Basil Spence enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art in 1925, studying architecture, where he secured a maintenance scholarship on the strength of the "unusual brilliance" of his work.


Basil Spence won several prizes at the college, and meanwhile carried out paid work drawing architectural perspectives for practising architects including Leslie Grahame-Thomson, Reginald Fairlie and Frank Mears.


Basil Spence received commissions to illustrate other architects' work, including the Southside Garage, on Causewayside, Edinburgh, in an Art Deco style.


Basil Spence's work was now concentrated on exhibition design, including three pavilions for the 1938 Empire Exhibition in Glasgow, and country houses.


In 1939, Basil Spence was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Camouflage Training and Development Centre of the British Army.


Basil Spence's work included, prior to D-Day, the design of a counterfeit oil terminus at Dover as part of the Operation Fortitude deception plan for the Normandy landings.


Basil Spence subsequently took part in the D-Day landings in 1944.


Basil Spence was demobilised in September 1945, having reached the rank of major and been mentioned in despatches twice.


Basil Spence was awarded an OBE in 1948 for his work in exhibition design, work which he continued with the Sea and Ships Pavilion for the 1951 Festival of Britain.


Basil Spence was External Professor of Architecture at the University of Leeds from 1955 to 1957 and from 1958 to 1960 he was the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.


Basil Spence was knighted in 1960 for his work at Coventry, while the cathedral was still being built.


In 1959, Basil Spence secured two important commissions, for the British Embassy in Rome, and for the Hyde Park Cavalry Barracks in London.


Basil Spence was responsible for designing the high-rise Hutchesontown C housing in Glasgow.


Basil Spence was responsible for modernist buildings on The Canongate in Edinburgh, opposite the new Scottish Parliament and in view of Holyrood Palace.


In 1960, Basil Spence designed Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh's Braid Hills area.


Basil Spence designed Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, which was unveiled in Snowdonia, north Wales, in 1968.


Basil Spence worked closely with Sir Richard Southern as consultant for the interior design and layout of the theatre.


From 1961 to 1968, Basil Spence was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy.


Basil Spence died in November 1976 at his home at Yaxley, Suffolk and was buried at nearby Thornham Parva.


In 2006, he was the subject of a BBC Scotland documentary, Rebuilding Basil Spence, which revised his place in 20th-century British architecture and asked why he had been for so long overlooked.