|Bio Notes: ||Robert Atkinson was born at Wigton, Cumbria on 1 August 1883, the son of a builder and cabinetmaker. He was provisionally articled to an unidentified architect in Nottingham who reported to his parents that he was unsuited to the profession; but his parents persevered and he recommenced his articles with James Harris in the same town in 1898, attending classes at University College and the School of Art there. He transferred his articles to ____ Dyson in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1899 but returned to Nottingham in 1900, winning the Dutton Walker scholarship of the School of Art in 1905. In 1904-05 he won a number of national competitions, the most important being the Tite Prize, and in the latter year moved to London as assistant first to John Belcher of Belcher & Joass, then to Charles Edward Mallows and finally to the unrelated R Frank Atkinson who had moved to London from Liverpool in 1901. |
After spending some nine months travelling in Italy, France, Germany, Holland and Algeria Atkinson came second in the Soane Medallion competition in 1906. He set up practice at 2 South Square, Gray's Inn with Charles Gascoyne, Alick Horsnell and George Nott. He passed the qualifying exam in 1909 and was admitted ARIBA on 28 February 1910, his proposers being Atkinson, Mallows and Alfred William Stephens Cross. In 1911 he moved office to 11 Old Queen Street, Westminster and in the following year took into partnership George Luard Alexander, a pupil of Bodley who had also worked in R Frank Atkinson's office. This was successful and the partnership moved to a more fashionable address at 199 Piccadilly, specialising in theatre and cinema design.
In 1911 Austen Hall invited Atkinson to become visiting master at the Architectural Association and after C H Reilly bullied the arts and craftsman Hugh Patrick Guarin Maule into resigning he was appointed Headmaster (later Principal) in January 1913. As head Atkinson furthered links with France until the Great War intervened. He was admitted FRIBA on 7 June 1915, his proposers being Thomas Edwin Cooper, Henry Victor Ashley and Francis Winton Newman, and in August 1916 he was exempted from war service to keep his practice open - Alexander and all the other staff had been called up - and supervise the removal of the Architectural Association from Tufton Street to Bedford Square. Alexander was killed in action late in 1917 and in 1919 Atkinson visited the USA to report on architectural education there for the RIBA and study the American picture palaces. On his return in October he resigned as Principal of the Architectural Association and took on the advisory post of Director of Education so that he could give more time to his practice, Howard Robertson succeeding him as principal. In 1922 his 'Report on the Education of the Architect in the United States of America' was published by the RIBA, and in 1926, together with the Association's librarian Hope Bagenal, he published volume 1 part 1 of 'Theory and Elements of Architecture', based on his lectures. The remainder was never published, at least partly because his role as Director came to an end with a restructuring of the School in 1929.
In 1924 Atkinson entered into a partnership with the Ecole des Beaux-Arts-trained Alexander Frederick Berenbruck Anderson (1888 -1968), a move which reinforced the American Beaux-Arts nature of his practice which was now based at 126 Wigmore Street. In 1932 he became a director of the Building Centre and stylistically the practice moved from Beaux-Arts and neo-Georgian into a very accomplished brick modern, particularly for cinema and housing work, the practice moving yet again to 13 Manchester Square in 1934. The major work of his later career was the Barber Institute at Birmingham, designed and built in 1936-39.
After the Second World War Atkinson & Anderson were appointed consultants for Government building projects in Gibraltar.
Atkinson was appointed OBE in 1951. He died on 26 December 1952.