Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||(Sir) John Burnet, Tait & Lorne |
|Designation: ||Architectural practice |
|Started: ||1930 |
|Ended: ||c. 1948 |
|Bio Notes: ||The London practice of Sir John James Burnet became Sir John Burnet, Tait & Lorne on Burnet's semi-retirement to the status of consultant in 1930. This was enabled by the purchase of a partnership by Francis Lorne, who returned from the United States to join Burnet's surviving partner Thomas Smith Tait. |
Tait was born in Paisley on 18 June 1882, the son of John Tait and his wife Elizabeth Smith. His father was then described as a stonemason but later had a substantial business as a builder. Tait was educated at John Neilson's Institution and in 1896 he was articled to the Paisley architect James Donald, a former assistant of Alexander Thomson's, and remained with him as an assistant. From 1900 he attended Paisley Technical School where he won three King's Prizes for architecture and decorative art. In 1903 he won a free scholarship to study at Glasgow School of Art and applied for a job with John James Burnet who engaged him as his personal assistant as he 'appeared to have the capacity for work'. Somehow he managed to accommodate studying under Eugène Bourdon at Glasgow School of Art with teaching architecture at Paisley Technical School in the years 1904-05. By that date the Office of Works, headed by Lord Windsor as First Commissioner, and the Trustees of the British Museum had selected Burnet to design the new galleries at the museum from a list of seven names submitted by the RIBA; and by 1905 Burnet had developed a masterplan which would have extended the museum on all four sides and laid out a British Museum Avenue on the north axis, a very Parisian concept. To develop this scheme Burnet established a London office in the name of John J Burnet only at 1 Montague Place, a grace-and-favour house rented to him by the museum, which was initially both house and office. Burnet took Tait with him, together with another very able assistant, Andrew Bryce, a move which enabled Tait to study at the Royal Academy Schools in London. Also involved in the project was David Theodore Fyfe, a former apprentice of Burnet's who had become an important scholar in Greek antiquity and had established his own practice in London. Only the Edward VII Galleries, which had been funded by a bequest made in 1899, were actually carried out. Burnet adopted the Ionic order of Smirke's colonnades in a subtly updated form, but the façade as a whole reflected contemporary French and American ideas drawing some inspiration from Ginain's Faculté de Médecine in Paris, but more on the scale of Louis Duc's Palais de Justice, lengthened from nine bays to nineteen.
While the British Museum was building Burnet received two major London commissions for commercial buildings. The first of these was the curved frontage General Buildings in Aldwych, built in 1909-11 in a simplified version of his eaves galleried Glasgow style with superb sculptural details by Albert Hodge. The second was the Kodak Building on Kingsway, built in 1910-11, where his client, George Eastman was American and unafraid of a modern solution. Several alternative sketch schemes were handed out to the senior draughtsmen in the London office and that developed by Tait was preferred by the client. It followed the familiar Burnet formula of the two-storeyed base but the design of the upper floors, giant pilasters enclosing steel-framed glazing with metal spandrel panels, was a drastic simplification of anything Burnet had designed before and the familiar eaves gallery was now replaced by a deep Egyptian cavetto cornice. The basic concept appears to have been drawn from Albert Kahn and Ernest Wilby's Owen Building at Detroit, built in 1907, which Burnet may have seen on his second visit to the USA in 1908. Although Burnet and Tait did not develop the Kodak bay design further, it was to be the prototype of countless commercial buildings of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly in Glasgow.
During his time as Burnet's chief assistant Tait travelled in France, Belgium, Holland and Italy, no doubt because he wanted to, but also because it was a necessary part of his CV for becoming an associate of the RIBA. On 26 December 1910 he married Constance Hardy, the daughter of a London stationmaster. A sensitive portrait drawing of her by Tait shows that she was a very beautiful girl, although she could be a bit indiscreet in later years. They had three sons, of whom the eldest, Gordon, was born on 3 March 1912. In June 1913 Tait sat and passed the RIBA's qualifying exam and was admitted ARIBA in September 1913, with the influential backing of Burnet, Theodore Fyfe and Herbert Vaughan Lanchester as proposers. By that date the Taits had set up house at 26 Holyoake Walk in Ealing.
The completion of the King Edward VII Galleries in 1914 brought Burnet a knighthood and the bronze medal of the Paris Salon. But within the practice itself there had been problems with the Office of Works and the British Museum Trustees over a baffling leak in the roof - which was eventually traced and rectified - the strength of the floors and most seriously fees; as ever Burnet's perfectionism had cost money. The year 1912 had also been marred by the first of two serious rows between Burnet and Tait. In July 1912 it was announced that Tait and James Mitchell Whitelaw, a brilliant draughtsman who had joined the office in 1907, had come second in the unofficial 'Builder' competition for the completion of the rebuilding of the Regent Street Quadrant in conformity with Richard Norman Shaw's Piccadilly Hotel: Tait had earlier achieved second place in the competition for St Marylebone Town Hall in 1911 in collaboration with an unidentified Sutton. Burnet was not best pleased: his consent to enter had not been sought and more seriously the bay design was based on his Civil Service and Professional Supply and Forsyth department stores. But they survived and after Whitelaw was drowned at Bournemouth in June 1913 the matter was forgotten, Tait organising a memorial volume of Whitelaw's drawings which was eventually published in 1916. Early in the summer of 1914 there was a much more serious disagreement when Burnet discovered that Tait had been helping Trehearne & Norman with their new buildings on Kingsway to augment his income: he had in fact designed their facades. Tait and his wife sailed for New York, arriving on 27 June and staying at the Normandy Hotel, until he found work as an assistant with Donn Barber. Their son Gordon was left at home. Although they sailed on different ships, the visit was made in association with Francis Lorne whom he had known as an assistant in the Glasgow office in 1910: Lorne had arrived a day earlier and was used as a forwarding address. Burnet quickly regretted the disagreement and appealed to Tait to return home as junior partner but he declined. When he did return it was as chief draughtsman to Trehearne & Norman on further Kingsway buildings, an appointment which ended in 1915 when he joined the drawing office in the arsenal at Woolwich. By that date Burnet and Tait appear to have been reconciled as Tait's FRIBA paper records him as assisting Burnet in the years 1915-18, evidently on a part-time basis as Burnet had little work in those years.
At the end of the war, seeking to rebuild his office staff to cope with a rapidly increasing workload, Burnet invited Tait to join him as a partner. Tait accepted, as did Burnet's former office manager David Raeside, the London practice now becoming Sir John Burnet & Partners, although still not completely separate from the Glasgow one. The office was busy over the ensuing years but Burnet's design role gradually diminished. He was still very much in charge of the work for the Imperial War Graves Commission and at the French classical-modern Vigo House on Regent Street. He also had a considerable influence on Adelaide House, the mullioned grid of which was a post-war development of McGeoch's even if the details were both more classical and more Egyptic: Burnet had sent Tait out to Port Tewfik to take a look at Egyptian antiquity, sensing that it was about to become fashionable, and Joseph Emberton also made some contribution to its detailing. But although Burnet received the Royal Gold Medal in 1923 and was elected RA in 1925, he was now much more limited in what he could do and his role became supervision of the office and the contribution of ideas to work in hand. Financial anxiety during the war and after it as a result of the disasters in the Glasgow office aggravated his eczema, forcing him to wear skullcap and gloves, and limiting his ability to draw. The changing responsibilities in the office were reflected in Tait being admitted FRIBA in November 1925. In August 1926 the Second Church of Christ Scientist in Palace Gardens Terrace was published as Tait's work, but it had in fact been worked up from designs Burnet had made during the First World War. But thereafter Tait took over the design work completely at the Daily Telegraph Building and at Lloyds Bank on Cornhill, even although these still had marked Burnetian elements: only in the partial redesign of Lomax Simpson's Unilever House did Burnet have a direct hand, having been asked to deal with the commission himself. But while these massive classical piles were under construction, Burnet and Tait were experimenting for the changes they knew must come in the next few years. Tait and his wife revisited the United States in 1925, while Burnet's role as assessor on the international jury for the League of Nations building in 1927 had given them a unique insight into the most advanced architectural thinking throughout the world. Frequent visits to the continent had also made them aware of the work of Robert Mallet Stephens, André Lurçat, and Le Corbusier in France and the De Stijl group in the Netherlands. In 1927-30 Tait designed an exceptional series of flat-roofed Cubist houses at Silver End, Essex for the steel window manufacturer W F Crittall, The Haven at Newbury, Berkshire for Dr Alan Simmons and West Leaze, Aldbourne for Hugh Dalton, the future Chancellor of the Exchequer. Except for Peter Behrens' New Ways at Northampton (1925) these were the first houses of their kind in Britain. To assist with this change of direction Burnet and Tait engaged three exceptional assistants: Clifford Strange; Franz Stengelhofen, who had studied at Trier in Germany; and Frederick MacManus, a Dubliner with American experience who designed some of the houses at Silver End. These developments were reflected at Tait's own home. His much improved circumstances enabled him to buy Gates House, Wyldes Close, Hampstead Way, an attractive Arts and Crafts house built by T Laurence Dale in 1915. In 1930 this was tactfully extended and fitted out with lavish Art Deco chimneypieces and furniture which had been commissioned from 1928 onwards.
Raeside died in 1928 and Burnet had a serious illness early the same year. A recurrence ultimately made it necessary for Burnet to retire completely, but he could not afford to. His secretary Helen Lorne - who lived in what had been the Burnets' flat at Montague Place - solved the problem by persuading her brother Francis Lorne to return from the United States and buy a partnership, his position at Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue Associates, having been badly affected by the Wall Street Crash in 1929. Lorne had returned by early August 1930, Burnet then became a consultant, retaining a significant financial interest in the practice, and appearing only about twice a year in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce for purely business meetings.
Tait already knew Lorne from their visit to the United States in 1914 and it is possible that the contact was renewed in his secong visit to the United States in 1925 as Lorne had then just recently joined Goodhue's office. Lorne was born in Falkirk on 30 March 1889, the son of Robert Lorne, a master joiner there. He was articled to the Falkirk architect Thomas Mair Copland in April 1905 and took classes at what he described as Falkirk School of Art (actually the Science and Art School); his 1913 ARIBA nomination paper describes them as evening classes, whilst his 1930 FRIBA nomination paper states that they were half-day classes. At the end of his articles in May 1910 he obtained employment with John Burnet & Son in Glasgow, working on competition designs under Norman Aitken Dick, Burnet's Glasgow partner, until October when he joined Eugène Bourdon's day classes at Glasgow School of Architecture. After six months he left to work for Banister Fletcher & Sons in London, remaining with them for one year until April 1912 when he joined the London staff of the Office of Works. He passed the qualifying exam in July 1913 and was admitted ARIBA on 14 August, his proposers being Herbert Phillips Fletcher, Banister Flight Fletcher and Roland Ingleby Smith of the Office of Works. By that date he had spent some eight months' study on the continent, much of the time being in Paris, and had joined the office of Cross & Cross in New York, studying American building. It has been said that Tait and Lorne went out to the United States together in 1914; while Lorne was in America at that time, confirmation regarding his travel with Tait is lacking. After the First World War broke out Lorne moved to Canada to serve with the Canadian engineers. It is not known what he did in 1920-21, apart from a book, of which more later. It was not until 1922 that he resumed practice with Frederick Garfield Robb in Montreal, working on an office building for Drummond McCall, which has echoes of Burnet and Tait's Kodak Building, and on an unrealised engineering block for McGill University. By 1924 he had moved to the New York office of Bertram Goodhue, who died in that year, and his successors Francis S L Mayers, Oscar H Murray and F Hardie Phillip, the last of these a Scot from Lorimer's office. There he worked on buildings for St Lawrence University and the Brooklyn Law School, and by 1929 he was an associate with his name among those listed on the letterhead. In that same year he belatedly became a registered architect and a member of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
On the formation of the partnership of Sir John Burnet, Tait & Lorne, the original intention was that Lorne would fulfil Raeside's role, one for which he was particularly suited as he had been the author of the manual 'Architectural Office Administration', published in 1921. On his arrival Lorne immediately sought elevation to FRIBA on the strength of his Canadian and American experience, his proposers being Burnet, Robert Atkinson and Edwin Stanley Hall. Tait soon found that he was not going to be another Raeside. His style was very different from Tait's avuncular wing-collar image. He was extremely sharp - 'make it snappy' - he wore stylish American clothes and received clients in silk shirts without a jacket, unheard of at the time. His approach to business was also very different. He cultivated publicity and gained an entrée to the Prince of Wales's circle through Mrs Dudley Ward who became the wife of Lorne's client the Marques de Casa Maury: he went out and sought work; and he ferreted out the owners of underdeveloped sites, secured their agreement in principle to sell and then set about finding clients for them. He kept the staff to just under twenty (Montague Place could not accommodate any more) and radically changed it. The more conservative of Burnet and Tait's assistants were cleared out and the survivors - Bryce and Ferguson - put on overtime at time-and-a-quarter rates. To re-equip the office for the thirties, Lorne brought with him the New York architect Slater-Ellis who had closed his practice after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and recruited an amazing team of politically and architecturally radical colonials and Scottish Americans who brought to a close the formal office protocol of Burnet's day. These included the New Zealanders Edward Armstrong, Lipscombe and Minson; the Australians Oscar Bayne and Henry Pynor; and Lorne's own brother-in-law, Ludovic Gordon Farquhar - once a colleague at Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue Associates - from the United States. All were men of exceptional ability: of particular interest in terms of experience were Bayne and Pynor who had both worked their way across the United States, the latter having worked for Frank Lloyd Wright and brought with him an important collection of drawings from that office; he also had experience of large-scale office organisation and construction having been in charge of a huge international team of architects and draughtsmen in Russia during the period of the Five Year Plan. Gordon Farquhar's background was even more valuable since he brought to the office experience with the Beaux-Arts skyscraper builder Raymond M Hood, architect of the Rockefeller Center in New York, features of which were to influence the design of St Andrew's House. The office was now split into two separate sections, Tait's and Lorne's, Tait retaining the older staff and recruiting new staff from Scotland as he needed them, while Lorne took charge of Stengelhofen and the colonials. Denis Bethune Williams provided a common structural engineering service and checked the measurements on every drawing which was to leave the office, while Gordon Farquhar and Helen Lorne attended to the accounts and the office administration.
These changes were accompanied in that same year by the radical shift in architectural direction for which Tait had been preparing. It was exemplified by the Royal Masonic Hospital at Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith, for which Tait had won the competition in 1929. His design was revolutionary in plan and servicing but was still modified neo-Georgian in elevation with steep dormered roofs. In 1930, although still planned on formal symmetrical lines, it was completely redesigned in a Dutch-American flat-roofed idiom, the reception block having hints of H F Mertens's works at Rotterdam for Unilever, the practice's client at Blackfriars Bridge, while the main ward block had a number of features, notably the semi-circular ended wings, which were to appear again at St Andrew's House. It brought him the RIBA Gold Medal for the best building of the year in 1933. Tait never wavered from the path of modernity again. The style of Ravenscourt Park was further developed in his competition designs for Norwich Municipal Buildings and in his scheme for the Brook House site in London's Park Lane where his client did not secure the site; at the Curzon Cinema in Mayfair for the Marques de Casa Maury, where he made some deft improvements on Lorne and Stengelhofen's design, adopting the style of the Dutch architect, Dudok; and at the Mount Royal flats on London's Oxford Street where he and Lorne again drew inspiration from the Netherlands, for some details perhaps from F A Warner's Atlanta House in Amsterdam. With the economic difficulties which beset the country from 1931 onwards the firm went into a relative decline in business which was weathered without losing key staff by a 10% wage cut: but even the slump was turned to advantage, Francis Lorne, Gordon Farquhar and Oscar Bayne taking the opportunity to produce the architects' bible of the 1930s, 'The Information Book of Sir John Burnet, Tait & Lorne', published in 1933 which consolidated the firm's position as the premier British practice of the decade.
Opinions on Lorne's ability as a designer have varied, and it is difficult to distinguish his work from that of Stengelhofen and Farquhar, who took a more active design role after business began to pick up again from 1933 onwards. Lorne was very much the spokesman for the practice, and a very good one too, arguing that modern architecture required 'a change of heart … only by getting back to architecture as a practical building problem for our own country, our own people, our own climate and conditions of life, can we produce an architecture that will mean something'. He also proclaimed that architecture should give us an emotional reaction: 'Most of us have realised the thrill which comes from boarding an ocean liner, or flying to France on one of the big imperial airways planes, or sitting at the wheel of a high-powered motor car. They are so eminently suitable for use and so attractively presented that they give us an emotional kick.'
As early as June 1933, after only three years in London, Lorne was appointed a member of the Council for Research on Housing Construction chaired by Lord Dudley and promoted by the Chartered Surveyors' Institute. It published its first report a year later on 14 June 1934, recommending a massive programme of slum clearance; and in the same year he designed the stand for the British Steelwork Association at the International Building Exhibition at Olympia and gave papers for the British Steelwork Association on the use of sheet steel in June, and on the use of steel in building and the elimination of timber in ship interiors in September.
During the 1930s the practice became increasingly international. This was a trend which had started in 1928 when Burnet and Tait's excellent professional relationship with Ralph Freeman of Sir Douglas Fox & Partners resulted in the commission for the architectural aspects of the bridge over the River Limpopo in South Africa for the Beit Trustees. In the early 1930s came still more ambitious work of this kind for Sydney Harbour, Cairo and Bangkok, and late in 1935 Burnet Tait & Lorne were commissioned by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer to design the giant headquarters of the Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa building at 44 Main Street, Johannesburg. In that year Tait was heavily committed to other projects and by mutual agreement Lorne became partner-in-charge and made several visits to South Africa in 1935 and 1936 to organise the project. Initially at least the design owed much to Tait as its massing and fenestration reflected the Norwich competition design and the original proposals for the Calton Road frontage of St Andrew's House in Edinburgh.
The St Andrew's House project had been commissioned two years earlier than the Johannesburg building but for reasons outwith the practice's control its construction came a year later. In 1933 the First Commissioner of the Office of Works, Major William Ormsby-Gore, formed a selection committee to appoint architects for the new Government buildings in Whitehall and the Scottish Office and National Library buildings in Edinburgh. For the first of these the committee - Sir William Llewellyn, President of the Royal Academy, and the Earl of Crawford, Chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission - narrowed the twelve names submitted by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott as President of the RIBA down to three: Arthur Davis, Vincent Harris and Tait. Tait was eliminated as he was expected to get the Scottish Office building and Harris was appointed by Ormsby Gore's casting vote as he had previously won a competition for it. At the Scottish meeting on 11 December Sir D Y Cameron represented the Royal Fine Art Commission and John Begg the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. As predicted they voted for Tait in preference to Davis. Tait adopted the general massing proposed by Sir George Washington Browne when attempting to refine a bald classical scheme by Sir Richard Allison earlier in the same year. For the elevations he developed ideas from two earlier schemes, his competition design for the Municipal Buildings at Norwich (it had been placed second) for the northern and Brooke House, Park Lane (both 1932) for the centre of the south front. In these elevations Dutch, French and American elements were integrated into a unified Beaux-Arts Modern concept which Tait himself described as sculpturesque. After many revisions to accommodate an ever-changing brief the building was erected in 1936-39 under the supervision of Burnet's relative James Wallace - a Lord Clerk-of-Works as Esmé Gordon described him - based first at 7 St Colme Street and later at 44 Charlotte Square.
With Burnet's retirement the old territorial divisions between Burnet Son & Dick in Glasgow and Burnet Tait & Lorne in London came to an end. Tait and Lorne now actively sought work for their Edinburgh office in direct opposition to Norman Dick, securing the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Paisley, housing at Howwood, a bank in Johnstone, and a giant hotel in Glasgow's Buchanan Street which was never built. But a much bigger project was soon to come. In June 1936 the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the Scottish National Development Council was brought into being to plan the Glasgow Empire Exhibition of 1938, largely on the initiative of Sir James Lithgow, Cecil Weir and other leaders of Scottish industry. No time was wasted on competitions; Tait was appointed architect-in-chief to appoint a team and get on with it. It comprised over 100 large structures in Bellahouston Park for which Tait engaged architects who had either a Burnet or an American background, together with the most promising of the younger generation - Basil Spence, Jack Coia, T Waller Marwick, Margaret Brodie and his own son Gordon Tait. Only the Dominions were allowed to appoint their own architects. Construction was of steel and timber, throughout clad in four-foot-square asbestos panels, the idea being apparently drawn from Mendelsohn and Chermayeff's Bexhill Pavilion of 1934, for which Tait had been the assessor. Inspiration was drawn from a wide variety of sources, but most of all from Raymond Hood's 'Century of Progress Exhibition' at Chicago of 1929-33 in which Farquhar had been involved. The success of the project, dominated by Tait's much admired steel tower, resulted in the offer of a knighthood which Tait initially accepted: unfortunately his wife Constance broke confidentiality at a bridge party. What she said was picked up by a mischievous gossip columnist: the knighthood had to be declined and although a second opportunity arose with the completion of St Andrew's House it was not offered again. The loss of it did not really trouble Tait, he was not the sort of man to whom such things mattered very much, but the affair did cause him some embarrassment.
While Tait, Bryce, Ferguson and Wallace were engaged on these Scottish projects, Lorne and Farquhar were building modernist blocks of offices, flats, schools and hospitals in London and the south-east, most of them in some degree developing themes from Tait's Masonic Hospital at Ravenscourt Park. Whilst Tait made a contribution to some of these, his involvement in others was fairly minimal. By the later 1930s Tait's relationship with Lorne was sometimes strained, the worst incident being when Lorne took advantage of his absence from the office to sell a maquette sculpture given to Tait by Sir William Reid Dick which he happened to dislike - it had been for Unilever House. The matter was exacerbated by Dick finding it in a dealer's gallery before Tait could do anything about it. The previously good relationship between Tait and the Lornes never recovered from that incident.
Tait's career was cut short by the Second World War. He was appointed Director of Standardisation at the Ministry of Works, rationalising the design and dimensions of army huts from his own experience as architect to the National Camps Corporation just before the war. The fine American Gothic Colonial Office building he designed for the Westminster Hospital site was never proceeded with, although he redesigned it in a more severe classical form after the war.
Within the partnership itself there were changes. Lorne married in South Africa in 1938 and again in 1941 after that did not prove a success. Just before Tait returned to the office in 1942 Lorne put his house at Ascot on the market and moved to Glenfarg House in Perthshire to take charge of the Edinburgh office and remained there, latterly working on the second Anglo-American Corporation building in Johannesburg until he withdrew from the partnership altogether and settled there in the late 1940s, the Burnet practice becoming Sir John Burnet, Tait & Partners, later abbreviated to Burnet Tait. Farquhar, who had been made a partner in 1937, was called up as a reservist in 1939 and died on 23 December 1945, shortly after returning home, as a result of his experiences in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.
The sharp decline in business during the war, the death of Farquhar, the withdrawal of Lorne's capital and South African business and the eventual cancellation of the Colonial Office commission strained the practice's financial position, a situation resolved by taking on new partners. Tait's eldest son Gordon gradually took over from his father as senior partner, the practice having moved from Montague Place to 10 Bedford Square in 1948; Tait had become consultant rather than partner by the time he died at his Perthshire home, Scotrea in Strathtay, on 18 July 1954, and the practice title changed to Burnet, Tait & Partners (later shortened to Burnet Tait).
Tait's highly successful career was unusual in that he himself took a low profile. He did not seek committee memberships or any other public appointments because he found them too time-consuming. He spent a lot of time with American and continental books ordered through Tiranti's, but like Burnet before him he never copied. As his RIBA obituarist - alas untraceable - put it, 'his nature held no trace of self-conceit or arrogance - and he seemed to think of himself as one of a body of architects who held a common stock of ideas from which anyone could borrow. Thus there never was a Tait manner of design. Each building was a special problem and if … the critics chose to find traces of Egypt, New York or Hilversum in it Tait was not in the least concerned. Nor in the eclectic twenties did anyone else mind very much … the practice of architecture was not a serfdom to creeds.'
The 'Architectural Review' observed that 'architecture is in his debt for a sum which cannot be realised by looking at his buildings one by one'. While that is true, each design was endlessly studied and perfected in a haze of cigarette smoke until he was satisfied that the result would be as functionally efficient and as refined as he could make it. In order to reserve as much time as he possibly could for the drawing board at both home and office he allowed himself very few visitors. Before 1930 he left office visitors to Burnet and Raeside and after that to Farquhar - who was extremely good at it - and the most senior staff. Although he could be robust and genial in personality, he was very unassuming, some even finding him rather shy, and commanded huge affection and loyalty among the staff. He neither had a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce like Burnet, nor did he ever drive himself, preferring to be driven by his sons Gordon and Kenneth in their MG, which they persuaded him to buy after they became a bit worried seeing him standing in the rain at bus stops. Later he bought a large Invicta, but that was for Constance's use rather than his own. Unlike Burnet who was a skilful manipulator of committees, he took no active part in the RIBA beyond its golf club; and despite his friendship with Sir William Reid Dick and other academicians, he was never elected to the Royal Academy even although Burnet Tait & Lorne was arguably the most influential British practice from 1930 onwards.
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural practice:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|1, Montague Place, London WC1, England||Business||1912 *||1948||Early in 1912 Burnet moved next door (to No 2) and in a letter of 18 March 1912 to the London County Council he mentioned that the Trustees of the Museum are giving him No.1 instead of No.2 (the Trustees of the British Museum are giving me the adjoining house instead of the one I now occupy [London Metropolitan Archives [GLC/AR/BR/22/BA/037974] He applied to the LCC for permission to move a temporary office building in the garden from No.2 to No.1. (This rear extension of No.1 is visible on the OS map of 1916.) The licence for the extension was renewed every five years and the last certificate relating to the practice dates from 1940.|
|7, St Colme Street, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||c. 1934||c. 1936||Office set up for supervision of Scottish Office buildings (St Andrew's House)|
|44, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, Scotland||Business||c. 1937 *|| ||Office for supervision of Scottish Office buildings (St Andrew's House)|
|10, Bedford Square, London, England||Business||1948 *|| || |
* earliest date known from documented sources.
Employment and Training
Employees or Pupils
Buildings and Designs
|This architectural practice was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Date started||Building name||Town, district or village||Island||City or county||Country||Notes|
|1930||Royal Masonic Hospital, Ravenscourt Park||Hammersmith|| ||London||England||Work completed under new partnership title - Farquhar responsible|
|1930||West Leaze||Aldbourne|| ||Wiltshire||England||Frederick MacManus responsible|
|1931||Hampstead Golf Clubhouse||Hampstead|| ||London||England|| |
|1931||Norwich Municipal Buildings||Norwich|| ||Norfolk||England||Competition design - 2nd premiated design|
|1932||Flats (Utopia Court)|| ||Guernsey||Guernsey||Channel Islands|| |
|1932||Flats, Brook House site|| || ||London||England||Proposed design|
|1932||Mount Royal Flats|| || ||London||England|| |
|1933||Buchanan Hotel|| || ||Glasgow||Scotland|| |
|1933||Curzon Cinema||Mayfair|| ||London||England|| |
|1933||Houses in Devonshire Street|| || ||London||England|| |
|1933||Scottish Office buildings||Calton Hill|| ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Executed scheme, known as St Andrew's House|
|1934||Berner Street Flats||Stepney|| ||London||England|| |
|1934||Chelsea House Flats||Chelsea|| ||London||England|| |
|1934||Evelyn Court||Hackney|| ||London||England|| |
|1934||Howard Hall Masonic Temple||Braintree|| ||Essex||England|| |
|1934||International Building Exhibition, Stand for British Steelwork Association||Olympia|| ||London||England||Lorne responsible|
|1934||Terrace of houses||St John's Wood|| ||London||England|| |
|Before 1934||Masonic Hall||Silver End|| ||Essex||England|| |
|1935||Four blocks of flats, Rutland Gate|| || ||London||England|| |
|1935||German Hospital|| || ||London||England|| |
|1935||Glasgow Eye Infirmary|| || ||Glasgow||Scotland||Internal reconstruction of Burnet building and reconstruction of houses in Sandyford Place with new attic|
|1935||Hawkhead Infectious Diseases Hospital||Paisley|| ||Renfrewshire||Scotland||Won competition and secured job|
|1935||House for the Jubilee of George V|| || || || ||Competition designs (unexecuted)|
|1935||Kirsop's shop|| || ||Glasgow||Scotland|| |
|1935||Steel House||Westminster|| ||London||England|| |
|Before 1935||Three cottages, Woodhall Road||Colinton|| ||Edinburgh||Scotland||Thomas Smith Tait consulted on remodelling of no 55 (to which Burnet had retired)|
|c. 1935||Bridge over the River Orchy||Bridge of Orchy|| ||Argyll||Scotland|| |
|c. 1935||Swan Court||Chelsea|| ||London||England||Interiors|
|1936||Burlington School for Girls||Hammersmith|| ||London||England||Frederick MacManus responsible|
|1936||Hackwood Park|| || ||Hampshire||England||New Doric loggia on site of conservatory screening service area and other alterations|
|1936||Housing Scheme, Howwood||Johnstone|| ||Renfrewshire||Scotland|| |
|1936||Kirkcaldy Town Hall||Kirkcaldy|| ||Fife||Scotland||Design submitted - not successful|
|1936||Royal Masonic Hospital, nurses' home||Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith|| ||London||England|| |
|c. 1936||Anglo American Corporation of South Africa|| || ||Johannesburg||South Africa|| |
|1937||Benenden Sanatorium||Benenden|| ||Kent||England||Wing added - Farquhar responsible|
|1937||House for Marques and Marquesa de Casa Maury||Maida Vale|| ||London||England|| |
|1937||Joseph Tritton School||Battersea|| ||London||England|| |
|1937||St Dunstan's Hospital||Rottingdean|| ||Sussex||England|| |
|1938||British Linen Bank||Johnstone|| ||Renfrewshire||Scotland|| |
|1938||Colonial Office||Westminster|| ||London||England|| |
|1938||Greenacres||Ascot|| ||Berkshire||England|| |
|1938||Primary School||Maltby|| ||Yorkshire||England||Frederick MacManus responsible for design|
|1938||St Dunstan's Hospital Chapel||Rottingdean|| ||Sussex||England|| |
|1938||West End Central Police Station|| || ||London||England||Farquhar responsible|
|1938||Wilberforce Housing Estate||Battersea|| ||London||England|| |
|1938 or 1939||Senior Elementary School||Thryberg|| ||Yorkshire||England||Frederick MacManus responsible|
|1939||Camps for the National Camps Federation|| || || ||England|| |
|1939||Chamber of Shipping Building, Bury Court|| || ||London||England||Farquhar responsible|
|1939||Ecclesfield Town Modern School||Ecclesfield|| ||Yorkshire||England|| |
|1939||Evacuation Camp, Broomlee Estate||West Linton|| ||Peeblesshire||Scotland|| |
|After 1939||Paisley General and Maternity Hospital||Paisley|| ||Renfrewshire||Scotland||Hospital planned but only Nurses' home built - scheme transferred to Riccartsbar site|
|1941||Six hundred and fifty concrete houses for Scottish Special Housing Association||Rosyth|| ||Fife||Scotland||Lorne responsible|
|1947||Bakery and store||Plymouth|| ||Devon||England|| |
|1947||Insurance Office||Plymouth|| ||Devon||England|| |
|1948||Ashton and Lea County Primary School||Preston|| ||Lancashire||England||Builder gives practice as Sir John Burnet, Tait & Partners, 10 Bedford Square London WC1|
|The following books contain references to this architectural practice:|
|Glendinning, Miles||1997||Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75 || ||Tuckwell Press Ltd||p2 Illustration of St Andrew's House|
|Walker, Frank Arneil||1986||South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew|| || ||p39|
|The following archives hold material relating to this architectural practice:|
| ||Source||Archive Name||Source Catalogue No.||Notes|
|British Museum||British Museum Central Archive, Trustees Minutes|| ||Trustees Minutes 14 October 1905|
|City of London, 40 Northampton Road||London Metropolitan Archives|| || |
|Courtesy of Johanna Roethe||Information sent to Dictionary|| ||Sent July 2009|
|Professor David M Walker personal archive||Professor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material|| ||Includes research by Tom Fox and Russell Tait|
|The National Archives, Kew||WORK||17/718||Still registered as a leasee of 10 Bedford Square in 1976.|