Basic Biographical Details

Name: Patrick John Nuttgens
Designation: Architect
Born: 2 March 1930
Died: 15 March 2004
Bio Notes: Patrick John Nuttgens was born on 2 March 1930, the third of the twelve children of the stained glass artist Joseph Edward Nuttgens and his wife Kathleen, and grandson of an itinerant German tailor who had settled in England to work in Savile Row. The family were neighbours in the Chilterns of the sculptor Eric Gill and his extended family. The two families shared beliefs in craftsmanship, Catholicism and social reform.

Nuttgens’ mother died of kidney failure when he was seven year old during his first term at Grace Dieu Manor School, near Leicester. He went on to Ratcliffe College, run by Rosminian Fathers. He captained the junior XV at rugby there but contracted poliomyelitis and was paralysed from the chest downwards. He was unable to walk for two years, spending much of this time in hospital, leaving with a calliper on one leg and his torso in plaster. When he returned to school, he became a star pupil and was offered a place at Cambridge but turned this down, preferring to go to study architecture and painting on a joint course at the School of Architecture, Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University. He graduated in 1953. He set his mind on becoming a ‘great’ architect but later admitted that this was ’really because my love of old buildings rather than a compulsive need to design new ones’. While in Edinburgh he met Bridget (Biddy) Badenoch, a doctor’s daughter, whom he married in 1954. The marriage developed into an intellectual and writing partnership. He became a writer on architectural subjects, commenting, for example, on the design of William Kininmonth's 'Adam House' in 1955. He was elected ARIBA in 1956. He remained in Edinburgh to study for the degree of PhD (his thesis was on the Scottish vernacular, focussing in particular on a group of fishing villages north east of Aberdeen). He eventually obtained his degree in 1959. He was elected ARIAS that year.

After Robert Matthew set up the new architecture department at the University of Edinburgh, he appointed Nuttgens as his chief administrator, lecturer and assistant. Matthew had spotted his talent as a course planner and teacher as much as an architectural practitioner. His post later was re-designated as Departmental Registrar when Robert Matthew expanded the department, recruiting more senior figures such as Percy Johnson-Marshall and Frank Clark. Little is known of any of Nuttgens' architectural work, but he was part of a supporting team (along with Michael Laird and John Paterson) which assisted Robert Matthew with his entry or the Hauptstadt Berlin competition in 1957-8.

Around this time Nuttgens had another set-back in the form of acute depression which left him with tunnel vision. He slowly recovered and in 1962 moved with his wife and four children to York to become director of the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies. In 1968 he became professor of architecture at the recently established York University, in the planning of which he was deeply involved. He also evolved new ways of teaching. At the institute he had devised short courses for architects, planners, builders and engineers. These courses were informed by his belief in ‘hands-on practice and professional collaboration’. Nuttgens was keen to start a department of architecture at York but wasunable to do so. He used the city of York as a resource in his teaching. He gained an in-depth knowledge of the city and campaigned vociferously for its preservation in the face of insensitive development. By the end of the 1960s York was seen as a centre of intelligent conservation.

Nuttgens believed in education for its own sake as well as for a purpose via practical experiment. In 1969 he was appointed director of Leeds Polytechnic. He liked the fact that Leeds taught technology, commerce, art and teacher training and endeavoured to make Leeds the best teaching institute in Europe. He landscaped the bleak city-centre campus (the mounds were nicknamed ‘Mount Nuttgens’) and set the tone within the Polytechnic with his easy informality. He had a genuine interest in people and would stop frequently to chat to students and cleaners alike.

In June 1970, Nuttgens was involved in Robert Matthew's New Town conference at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. He spoke on the topic of the cultural significance of the New Town and the importance of the Blueprint studies in England.

His years at Leeds were not without incident. He had to handle student sit-ins in his office in 1972 and there was local opposition to the performance art developed by the students who on one occasion shot a live budgerigar on stage; having been assaulted by a member of the audience, the artist fired into the crowd, causing a stampede to the exit. The police duly arrived and the event was considered a success by the students. Nuttgens’ relations with the Leeds local authority were strained to breaking point when the police were called in to investigate allegations of corruption over building contracts, charges which were eventually dropped. However his educational principles were under threat during the Thatcher years. In 1986 he contracted multiple sclerosis and resigned.

After his resignation Nuttgens was busier than ever, writing, broadcasting, painting and travelling. He wrote and published prolifically throughout his career, but the 1980s saw his best work. In 1981 he wrote a television documentary on Edwin Lutyens, while in 1989 he wrote and introduced a television history of British housing, The Home Front. He also appeared on radio where he was a regular participant in ‘A Word in Edgeways’ and ‘Round Britain’ quiz. He chaired the BBC’s northern advisory council and its committee on continuing education. He continued to produce watercolours from all the places he visited in his later years. He was appointed CBE in 1983.

After leaving Leeds he returned to York as an honorary professor. He sat on a great number of committees, including the Royal Fine Art Commission (1983-90) and the York Theatre Royal Board (1990-96). He was awarded honorary doctorates by a number of universities.

Nuttgens died on 15 March 2004, survived by his wife, their six sons and three daughters.

'The Story of Architecture' (1983 and 1997)
'Understanding Modern Architecture' (1988)
'Reginald Fairlie 1883-1952' (1959)

'A Full Life and an Honest Place' in BBC's 'Spirit of the Age' series (1975)
'The Home Front: Housing the People 1840-1990' (1989) with accompanying book

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 225, George Square, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1954 Department of Architecture address?
Item 2 of 216, George Square, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1959 Address of one of the University departments?


RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1David Plaistow Crease3 June 1970For Fellowship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 2April 1957Hauptstadt Berlin competition (Robert Matthew's entry)  BerlinGermanyIncluded in Robert Matthew's supporting team
Item 2 of 219588 George Square  EdinburghScotlandWith Housing Research Unit.


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 4Glendinning, Miles1997Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75  Tuckwell Press Ltdp140-44 'A warehouse for books: Glasgow University Library. Sir William Whitfield, in conversation with Patrich Nuttgens'
Item 2 of 4Glendinning, Miles2008Modern architect: the life and times of Robert Matthew RIBA Publishingp150-51, 154, 196, 227-9, 245-6, 455, 472-3, 538
Item 3 of 4RIBA1954RIBA Kalendar 1953-54   
Item 4 of 4RIBA1971RIBA Directory 1971   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Daily Telegraph5 April 2004  Obituary
Item 2 of 3The Guardian17 March 2004  Obituary
Item 3 of 3The Independent10 April 2004  Obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Interview with Eric Davidson, 20 October 2010Information to Yvonne Hillyard   
Item 2 of 2RIAS, Rutland SquareRecords of membership