Basic Biographical Details

Name: Emanuel Vincent Harris
Born: 26 June 1876(?)
Died: 1 August 1971
Bio Notes: Emanuel Vincent Harris (usually E Vincent Harris or simply Vincent Harris) was born on 26 June 1876 at 3 Lambert Street, Devonport, the son of Major Emanuel Harris and his wife Mary Vincent. He was educated at Kingsbridge Grammar School and articled to James Harvey of Plymouth from 1893 until 1897. He then obtained a place with Edward Keynes Purchase in London, there after moving first to Leonard Aloysius Stokes and then to Sir William Emerson. During these early London years he studies at the Royal Academy Schools and passed the qualifying exam. He was admitted ARIBA on 3 December 1900, his proposers being Emerson, Stokes and Phene Spiers.

In 1901 (or 1902 - sources vary) Harris joined the London County Council’s Architects’ Department, working under William Edward Riley on tramway generating stations, some of which he made notably architectural. He won the Royal Academy’s Gold Medal and travelling Scholarship in 1903, set up independent practice in the following year and began entering competitions, coming second in Torquay Town Hall, sixth for the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, fourth for Crofton Park Library and second again for Dartmouth Town Hall. In 1908 he formed a partnership with Thomas Anderson Moodie, a Scottish colleague in the LCC, who had just returned from South Africa on the completion of the Central South African Railway Offices in Johannesburg, won in competition in 1903. They won the competition for Glamorgan County Hall in Cardiff in the same year, 1908, and to help build it they were briefly in partnership with John Stanley Towse, a former colleague of Harris in Stokes’ office who had commenced independent practice in 1903. Harris and Moodie left the LCC shortly after winning the competition.

A four-year run of bad luck in competitions, broken only by the Fire Station at Cardiff in 1910, brought the partnership with Moodie to an end in 1913. In September of that year the competition for the giant Board of trade Office in Whitehall was announced and Harris resolved to enter it entirely on his own. He was declared the winner in February 1915, but the project was shelved because of the war. His design was not perhaps the best as architecture but it was very efficiently planned introducing the concept of double banked offices with central corridors.

Harris married Ethel Maule, the daughter of a doctor, in 1913. He was admitted FRIBA on 12 January 1914, his proposers being Edwin Cooper, a fellow of the Classical Society, Henry Hare and Ernest Newton, but professional practice was interrupted by the First World War in which he served on the Western Front. The Board of Trade remained on the drawing board but in 1920 he was successful in the Sheffield Memorial Hall competition. It inaugurated an impressive run of competition wins for county and municipal projects, notably Nottingham County Hall at West Bridgford, ( 1925, built 1937-46) Braintree Town Hall and Leeds Civic Hall (both 1926) and the Manchester Library and Town Hall extension (1927) where he narrowly defeated Bradshaw Gass & Hope on cost. All of these were won by the most thorough research into the requirements: he had three visits to the USA by 1929 to see best practice there, and the influence of contemporary American classicism was particularly marked at Sheffield and Manchester Library.

In 1929-30 Harris was one of the assessors for the new Council House at Bristol. The competition unexpectedly proved abortive and was abandoned. The commission was then offered to one of the assessors, the eminent Bristol architect George Churchus Lawrence. He declined. It was then offered to Harris who accepted and was censured by the RIBA for doing so. The commission was nevertheless confirmed in 1933. The incident made no difference to his practice. Other county and municipal competition wins and commissions followed, and in 1930-31 he prepared a master plan for Exeter and South-West England University College where generously paid for the building of the chapel. Most of these 1930s buildings were in a brick-and-stone idiom with Lutyens-inspired elements, quite different from his stone-faced buildings of the 1920s.

Harris joined the Art Workers Guild in 1935.

The commission for the unbuilt Board of Trade offices was re-awarded by an Office of Works selection committee in January 1934 and redesigned to accommodate the Air Ministry in 1936, construction beginning in 1939 and halted a second time by the outbreak of war. In general concept it still followed the 1913-15 scheme and remained stone-faced in deference to the Whitehall setting.

Harris was sixty-nine at the end of the Second World War but he continued in practice to complete the Bristol Council House and build the Whitehall offices, revised yet again in a still larger and much bolder form to meet Treasury requirements. New commissions continued to come in, notably Kensington Library built 1955-60 and still in his pre-war classical brick-and-stone idiom.

Harris was appointed OBE in 1950, an honour which bore scant relationship to the scale and quality of his best work. Somewhat controversially he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 1951: by that date the younger architects saw his work as outdated and the half-built Whitehall offices had clouded his reputation. He was aware of it and his terse acceptance acknowledged it: ‘Look, a lot of you people here tonight don’t like what I do and I don’t like a lot of what you do, but I am proud and honoured to receive the Royal Gold Medal’.

On his retirement from practice to Chard in Somerset, Harris gave his house at 10 Fitzroy Park, Highgate, to the Burgh of Camden. He had designed it himself with the assistance of Donald McMorran. Ethel Harris died in 1965. Harris himself died at Cranhill Nursing Home, Bath, on 1 August 1971, and was buried in the churchyard at Chaffcombe where a monument by Arthur Bailey marks his grave. As he had no children his estate of £573,552 was divided between the Royal Academy and Chard School in accordance with his will.

Harris designed only one work in Scotland, an addition to Tullich Lodge, Ballater. But his influence was marked in the works of John Watson II who was in his office 1927-33 and similarly continued to design in a classical idiom after the Second World War, while his brick and stone municipal architecture seems to have influenced the work of James Miller in the mid-1930s. Watson remembered the office regime as strict and austere but not unkind: no smoking, tea or coffee, not out of any meanness but a distaste for any form of untidiness or any hazard to drawings which might upset workflow. The practice was unusual in that it was almost wholly dependent on competition wins for large projects, although he did design a racquet court for Stephen Courtauld in 1924 and Atkinson’s Scent shop in Old Bond Street, London, in 1927.

Harris himself was small in stature and had absolutely no small talk. In Arthur Bailey’s words his practice: ‘required no social attributes or the patronage usually associated with architectural practices…he had no time for letters, meetings or officialdom…having won a competition, it was there to be built’. He designed everything that mattered himself, again in Bailey’s words: ‘The purely classical proportions were printed indelibly on his mind, and he would take a roll of detail paper, pin it to the top of his board and proceed to detail from cornice to skirting rolling the paper from his feet in the process.’

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 28, New Square, Lincoln's Inn, London, EnglandBusinessBefore 1905After 1914 
Item 2 of 229, St James's Square, London, EnglandBusinessBefore 1921After 1934 

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2Harris, Moodie, & Towse1909 Partner 
Item 2 of 2Harris & Moodie19091911Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 4John McNee Jeffrey1907 or 19081908(?)Assistant 
Item 2 of 4John Robert MooreAfter 1923Before 1925Assistant 
Item 3 of 4John Watson (junior)19291933Senior Draughtsman 
Item 4 of 4Chessor Lille MatthewAfter 1936Before 1941AssistantOnly during holidays from his post as lecturer at the Welsh School of Architecture


RIBA Proposals

This proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1William Bryce Binnie (Major)Late 1919 or early 1920for Associateship

Buildings and Designs

This 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 41909Glamorgan County Buildings  CardiffWalesWon competition to secure job
Item 2 of 41910Tullich LodgeBallater AberdeenshireScotlandAdditions including tower
Item 3 of 41913Board of Trade Offices  LondonEnglandWon competition but not built at that time
Item 4 of 41923Tullich LodgeBallater AberdeenshireScotlandAdditions


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 9Anon.1951The Royal Gold Medallist, 195158RIBA Journal, vol 58 (1950-51), pp149-152 
Item 2 of 9Beauty's Awakening Beauty's Awakening: The Centenary Exhibition of the Art Workers' Guild Brighton Museum September -November 1984, Royal Pavilion Brighton 
Item 3 of 9British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 4 of 9Gray, A Stuart1985Edwardian Architecture: A Biographical Dictionary   
Item 5 of 9Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art   
Item 6 of 9Hartwell, Clare and Wyke, Terry (eds)2007Making Manchester: Aspects in the History of Architecture in the City and Region since 1800 Manchester. pp133-156 
Item 7 of 9New DNB New Dictionary of National Biography   
Item 8 of 9Reilly, C H1929Eminent living artists and their work: E Vincent Harris Building, September 1929 
Item 9 of 9Summerson, J1934The Recent Work of Mr E Vincent Harris Country Life, vol 75, 1934, pp423-426 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 6Building6 August 1971   
Item 2 of 6RIBA JournalFebruary 195158London: Royal Institute of British Architectspp149-152 'The Royal Gold Medallist 1951'.

Or is this actually 1970-71??
Item 3 of 6RIBA JournalFebruary 1971 London: Royal Institute of British Architectspp149-151
Item 4 of 6RIBA JournalApril 1971 London: Royal Institute of British Architectspp215-217
Item 5 of 6The Times2 August 1971   
Item 6 of 6The Times12 August 1971   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1London Metropolitan Archives Biographical volumes on Council architects