Basic Biographical Details

Name: Douglas ('Doug') Stonelake
Designation: Architect
Born: 23 September 1932
Died: 2018
Bio Notes: Douglas Stonelake (often known as ‘Doug’) was born in 1932 in Hornsey, London, his family moving to Finsbury Park in 1939 after his father had lost his job. Their home was destroyed by bombing in early 1944, and the Government then provided them with a requisitioned house in Crouch End; but true tragedy struck in autumn of that year, when this house too was hit by a B1 bomb and his parents were killed. The 12-year-old Stonelake went to live with an aunt and uncle in Finchley, where he attended Christ College grammar school. His desire to be a scientist was not encouraged by his very religious aunt and uncle, who considered science evil; instead, they nurtured his interest in drawing, through which he found himself guided towards a career in architecture.

With the aid of a government grant he studied at the Northern Polytechnic in Holloway, as a full-time student for the first three years. Thereafter, having been pushed by his aunt to find paid employment, he secured a position in the firm of A M Gear, which had developed Arcon prefabricated housing as a solution to the accommodation crisis in the immediate post-war period, and which by then was working with Taylor Woodrow on prefabricated steel structures for export, including schools and hospitals. While there, he continued to take evening classes at the Northern Polytechnic; with four evenings of lectures a week, and obliged by his aunt and uncle to spend all of Sunday at chapel, he was left with very little free time.

He qualified and became a member of the RIBA in 1955, and was called up for National Service that summer. He regards himself as fortunate in having been assigned to surveying work rather than a task entirely unrelated to his profession, and the opportunity to travel broadened his horizons. Having attended a twelve-week course in trigonometrical surveying in Newbury, he put his new skills to use in Cyprus and in the Iraqi desert. Based at Habbaniyah near Baghdad, during leave periods he visited Tehran, Esfahan, Persepolis and the Caspian Sea. On being demobbed in 1957, he and a friend took advantage of a scheme offering government grants for independent travel home: they took a flight to Cyprus and another to southern Turkey, then made their way back to Britain via Istanbul (admiring the new Hilton hotel), Greece (including Athens), Italy (south to north – visiting Naples, Pompeii and Rome), Switzerland and Paris.

On his return to London, he consulted the RIBA for employment, and was told that little was available; but he was pointed in the direction of leading modernist architect Ernö Goldfinger. Impressed by the watercolours and pen-and-ink drawings he had made on his travels, Goldfinger gave him a job immediately, and he was put to work on drawings for housing in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire. He quickly realised that Goldfinger viewed his assistants as ‘extensions to his fingers’, allowing no significant creative input; but after a frank discussion with Goldfinger at the end of his first week, he was persuaded to stay. Goldfinger took him to see a number of completed projects, including an office block at Albemarle Street, a factory for Hille, and his own house at Willow Road in Hampstead, where he delighted in showing the young architect the innovations he had made. However, although charming when in a good mood, Goldfinger proved very difficult to work for; assistants were hired and fired in quick succession. After a few months, Stonelake confided in colleague Pat Quinn, who endorsed his opinion and supported his decision to approach the London County Council for employment (she having previously worked there herself). This he did, obtaining a job in the housing division where his first task was to assist Austrian émigré Joe Berger in producing detail drawings for a housing project in Poplar.

After working for two years on ‘bread-and-butter housing’ with no great innovation, he decided to move on. At that time there was full employment, and Stonelake recalls that ‘it was merely a matter of looking in the back of the journal, a great wodge of adverts, and saying, “Oh, I think I fancy working there.”’ He opted for the Kensington practice of A Llewellyn Smith & Waters, but did not find the work rewarding: again, he and his colleagues were allowed no real design input, simply producing detail drawings for projects already outlined by a woman architect who worked part-time from home. After six months, having worked on a ‘really strange house somewhere in Ireland’ and a factory, he decided to follow the example of his then flatmate (a Northern Polytechnic contemporary), who had become an architect for the railways and enjoyed more freedom in his work, as well as the benefit of free travel. Stonelake joined the office at Euston and was set to work on control depots for the newly electrified line from Euston to Crewe.

Greatly discouraged when, in the autumn of 1962, Dr Beeching called staff together to announce his plans for sweeping closures of railways – which included parts of line for which control depot designs on which Stonelake had been working were far advanced – he was tempted by a special issue of the ‘Architect’s Journal’ to apply for a post on the Cumbernauld New Town Development Committee. Following a day of interviews with Geoffrey Copcutt and Dudley Leaker in January 1963, his application was accepted. Administrative errors caused several months’ delay before he was able to take up the post, working on Phase 1 of the Town Centre. He was enormously disappointed when, only about a week after his arrival that June, Copcutt told him that he was leaving. Without Copcutt, he found himself in what felt like a ‘vacuum’, uncertain as whom he was answerable to or what he should be doing. Eventually he was integrated into the team overseeing Phase 2. He also became involved in other activities, including the Cumbernauld Cottage Theatre and skiing in the north of Scotland; and he spent eight weeks surveying Lord William Taylor’s excavations at Mycenae, and carrying out drawings of excavated objects such as pots.

He left Cumbernauld before the construction of the second phase, having obtained a British Council scholarship to spend a year in Russia studying the effects of mass prefabricated rebuilding on the urban environment (although the principal drive for his wish to go there was in fact a desire to see how communist society, so strongly condemned by his religious relatives for being atheistic and materialistic, really worked). It was arranged that Professor Frank Fielden of the University of Strathclyde would supervise him by correspondence during his stay. Prior to his departure in autumn 1966, he took a six-week course in Russian at Cambridge. He then set off on board the SS ‘Baltika’ from the London Docks to Leningrad, from whence he travelled on to Moscow. He was horrified on his arrival in Moscow to find that his Russian was by no means adequate for his needs. Having been strongly warned by the Foreign Office about matters such as surveillance, he felt the need for more support, and went to the Moscow Architectural Institute, which was affiliated to the university there. There, he found a professor with whom he was able to communicate in French. This led to a great deal of assistance, including private Russian tuition and introductions to a number of architectural offices where frequently someone would be found to act as an interpreter. During his site visits, including one in Moscow’s Cheryomushki district, he was particularly struck by the Russians’ ability to continue construction work in the middle of winter and at night, employing floodlights and heating the concrete by electricity if necessary; and he observed that they were able to erect massive towers within as little as four to six weeks, once the foundations had been prepared. He was also able to travel widely, visiting Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kiev, Tbilisi, Samarkand and Tashkent, although he was forbidden from fulfilling his wish to travel deep into Siberia.

He left Russia in summer 1967. His first stop was in London for a single night at the home of his aunt and uncle, with whom he had at last ‘established a reasonable working relationship’ with no more violent arguments. A couple of weeks later he set off for Canada, to visit the Expo in Montreal on the invitation of a former girlfriend from Cumbernauld who had moved to the latter city when he had left for Russia. She was astonished when, on finding the Russian pavilion inexplicably closed, he failed to pose any searching questions at all: perhaps a result of his having grown accustomed to putting up with such things in Russia. After a three-week stay, he returned to Scotland and found accommodation in Glasgow, where he spent a year writing up his M.Arch thesis, with critical input from Professor Thomas Markus as well as from his supervisor, Frank Fielden.

On completion of his thesis, he secured a post under David Gosling, Chief Architect of Irvine New Town, where he started work in autumn 1968. He initially continued to live in Glasgow and drove to Irvine daily, but was eventually given temporary accommodation in one of the new blocks there. He led the housing group, but also worked on other building types, including a shopping centre at Pennyburn and fitting out a factory for BMB (British Manufactured Bearings). The latter enabled him to gain experience in practical techniques such as welding, and the clients were very demanding of his time: he had married in 1973, and he recalls his new wife’s frustration at the constant call-outs. In the event, the company went into administration only weeks after occupying the building, leaving numerous local people jobless.

Having previously been involved in the theatre at Cumbernauld, Stonelake seemed the obvious choice when Gosling was approached by his friend Brian Touchner, a factory director and chairman of Irvine’s fledgling Harbour Arts Centre, to put forward a young architect who could renovate the arts centre’s building – a former mortuary chapel. Although this was to be carried out in spare time and without any fee, Stonelake jumped at the chance. He developed a good relationship with Touchner, who went on to give him paid work in the form of an extension to one of his plastics factories, also carried out in his spare time. He had to collaborate with other firms to limit his liability on such private projects: he carried out the drawings for Touchner’s factory on paper from Houston & Dunlop of Kilbirnie, who went on to supervise its construction.

He was tempted to move in the mid-1970s, but by that time he had started a family, so changes of location were less straightforward, and the economic situation meant jobs were less easy to come by. He finally left Irvine in 1979 to take up a position with the Scottish Special Housing Association (SSHA), which had recently moved from Edinburgh to new headquarters in Glasgow to assist its involvement in the Glasgow East Area Renewal (GEAR) and other projects there. Stonelake was not himself involved in GEAR, but focused instead on a mixture of new-build work (which he found interesting) and tenement rehabilitation (which he found less so). One of the main projects he worked on was a Saltire Award-winning housing scheme in Kirkland Street, where he experienced for the first time the ‘tenant participation’ approach, whereby tenants were given the opportunity to contribute their ideas to the design process. One key difference this made in this particular case was the installation of full central heating, rather than the originally proposed heating of only the hall and living room. The tenants also rejected the architects’ early intention to site their bathrooms and kitchens on the side overlooking noisy Maryhill Road, insisting that they wanted their living areas on this side so that they could keep an eye on what was happening outside; the modification, of course, also necessitated double-glazed windows. Another particularly rewarding project was a show home for the disabled, using cutting-edge technology and research, which was the SSHA contribution to the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival.

When the SSHA was disbanded at the end of the 1980s, Stonelake found he did not fit into the management mould that was being sought to run new, smaller offices, so he looked elsewhere for employment. On the strength of his previous successes in architectural competitions, he was invited by Ayr architect Robert Potter to design a competition scheme for his firm. The scheme was successful, and Stonelake was very glad of the generous sum received (£1000 for the designs plus £5000 extra following the win), but talk of a possible partnership or associateship in Dumfries came to nothing. He finally secured a job with Gillespies (William Gillespie & Partners) in Glasgow, joining them in spring 1989. Work there was more focused on urban renewal than building design, and Stonelake’s projects included the repaving of Glasgow’s Royal Exchange Square and a conversion of a church in Bath Street as a nursery and guest house with meeting rooms.

Stonelake retired in 2002 but continued to carry out occasional work for Gillespies on a private basis thereafter.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 5Muswell Hill, London, EnglandPrivate19321939Place of birth
Item 2 of 5Finsbury Park, London, EnglandPrivate19391944Part of childhood
Item 3 of 5London, EnglandPrivate1944Late 1962 
Item 4 of 5Moscow, RussiaPrivateLate 1966Mid 1967on a British Council scholarship
Item 5 of 5Glasgow, ScotlandPrivateLate 1967  

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 11A M Gearc. 19521955  
Item 2 of 11Ernö (Erno) Goldfinger1957Early 1958Assistant 
Item 3 of 11London County Council Architects' Department (LCC Architects' Department)Early 1958Early 1960(?) in housing division
Item 4 of 11Irvine New Town Development Corporation (or Irvine Development Corporation)1960s1970sArchitect 
Item 5 of 11A Llewellyn Smith & WatersEarly 1960(?)Late 1960(?) for around six months
Item 6 of 11British Railways Architects (Architects Department, British Rail)Late 1960Late 1962  
Item 7 of 11Cumbernauld New Town Development CorporationLate 1962Late 1966  
Item 8 of 11Irvine New Town Development Corporation (or Irvine Development Corporation)Late 19681979Group LeaderPrincipal of Housing Group
Item 9 of 11Scottish Special Housing Association (SSHA)1979Early 1989 in Glasgow office
Item 10 of 11Robert Potter & Partners19891989 Not technically an employee, but prepared competition designs for the practice (project unidentified)
Item 11 of 11William Gillespie & Partners (or Gillespies)Early 19892002  

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 231957HousingAbbots Langley HertfordshireEnglandProduced drawings for Ernö Goldfinger
Item 2 of 231958Housing, Wade Street(?)Poplar LondonEnglandas assistant to Joe Berger at LCC
Item 3 of 23Late 1950sHousing estateAbbey Wood LondonEnglandassisted Stan Mendelsohn at LCC, only in supervision of building work (not with design)
Item 4 of 231960Four-storey maisonettesLewisham LondonEnglandresponsible for design (at LCC) but left before construction
Item 5 of 23After 1960District electric railway depotWalsall StaffordshireEnglandUnexecuted designs for messing facilities, canteen, control room and boiler house
Item 6 of 23After 1960Willesden Junction railway control depotWillesden LondonEnglandPartially involved in design
Item 7 of 231960 or 1961Railway control depotRugby WarwickshireEngland 
Item 8 of 23Mid 1963Cumbernauld Town Centre, Phase ICumbernauld LanarkshireScotlandExecution of designs prepared before his arrival by Geoffrey Copcutt
Item 9 of 23c. 1964Cumbernauld Town Centre, Phase IICumbernauld New Town LanarkshireScotlandInvolved in development
Item 10 of 23After 1968Shopping centre at PennyburnIrvine AyrshireScotland 
Item 11 of 23Late 1960sCumbernauld Cottage TheatreCumbernauld LanarkshireScotlandInvolved in design
Item 12 of 23Late 1960sHousing at PennyburnKilwinning AyrshireScotland 
Item 13 of 23197260 rental houses, OrmlieThurso CaithnessScotlandWorked with Sinclair Macdonald & Son
Item 14 of 231973Harbour Arts CentreIrvine AyrshireScotlandDesigns for conversion to theatre - in his spare time - with Digu Nerukar
Item 15 of 23c. 1973Factory for BMBIrvine AyrshireScotlandBuilt speculatively as a shell, then fitted out for BMB
Item 16 of 23Mid 1970s or late 1970sPlastics factoryIrvine AyrshireScotlandExtension - in his spare time
Item 17 of 231980sSSHA sheltered housing, Dumbarton RoadWhiteinch GlasgowScotlandWorking for SSHA
Item 18 of 231983Kirkland Street housing  GlasgowScotlandWorking for SSHA
Item 19 of 231988Glasgow Garden Festival  GlasgowScotlandShow home for the disabled - working for SSHA
Item 20 of 23After 1989Baptist Church  GlasgowScotlandConversion to nursery, guest house and meeting rooms - working for Gillespies
Item 21 of 23After 1989Buchanan Street pedestrianisation  GlasgowScotlandWorking for Gillespies
Item 22 of 23After 1989Candleriggs pedestrianisation  GlasgowScotlandWorking for Gillespies
Item 23 of 23After 1989Royal Exchange Square urban renewal  GlasgowScotlandWorking for Gillespies


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 2Glendinning, Miles1997Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75  Tuckwell Press Ltdp30-1
p49 Photograph of Town Centre
p84-5 Aerial of model of Cumbernauld Town Centre
p172 Cumbernauld Town Centre Phase I
Item 2 of 2Miles Glendinning, Diane Watters, David Whitham Docomomo Scotland Leaflet  p230 Cumbernauld Town Centre

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of Alasdair S MacdonaldInformation supplied via 'Contact Us' page on the website Sent February 2012
Item 2 of 2Courtesy of Douglas StonelakeInterview of Douglas Stonelake by Jessica Taylor, 4 November 2008 in Glasgow