Basic Biographical Details

Name: Robert Atkinson
Born: 1 August 1883
Died: 26 December 1952
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.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 8Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, EnglandPrivateBefore 18981899 
Item 2 of 8Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, EnglandBusiness1900After 1905 
Item 3 of 82, South Square, Gray's Inn, London, EnglandBusiness19061911 
Item 4 of 811, Old Queen Street, London, EnglandBusiness19111912(?) 
Item 5 of 8199, Piccadilly, London, EnglandBusiness1912(?)  
Item 6 of 8126, Wigmore Street, London, EnglandBusiness1924 *  
Item 7 of 813, Manchester Square, London, EnglandBusiness1934  
Item 8 of 8110, Old Brompton Road, London, EnglandBusiness1949 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

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 5___ Dyson18991900Apprentice 
Item 2 of 5Belcher & Joass1905Before 1909Assistant 
Item 3 of 5Robert Frank AtkinsonAfter 1905Before 1909Assistant 
Item 4 of 5Charles Edward MallowsAfter 1905Before 1909Assistant 
Item 5 of 5Atkinson & Alexander1912Before 1917Partner 

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 4The Hon Claud [Stephen] Phillimore1930s Assistant 
Item 2 of 4John Robert AtkinsonOctober 1932 Assistant 
Item 3 of 4Alan Reiach1936Before 1938Assistant 
Item 4 of 4David CarrBefore 1949 Chief Assistant 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6Henry Victor Ashley7 June 1915for Fellowship
Item 2 of 6Robert Frank Atkinson28 February 1910for Associateship
Item 3 of 6(Sir) Thomas Edwin Cooper (or Edwin Cooper)7 June 1915for Fellowship
Item 4 of 6Alfred William Stephens Cross28 February 1910for Associateship
Item 5 of 6Charles Edward Mallows28 February 1910for Associateship
Item 6 of 6Francis Winton Newman7 June 1915for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 4David Carr29 November 1949for Fellowship
Item 2 of 4Francis LorneLate 1930for Fellowship
Item 3 of 4Frederick Edward Bradshaw MacManus29 November 1926for Associateship
Item 4 of 4Thomas Smith Tait15 February 1926for Fellowship

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 31910Usher Hall  EdinburghScotlandCompetition design - not successful
Item 2 of 31912Royal Hotel and cinema  EdinburghScotlandJoint architect for cinema with R M Cameron
Item 3 of 31915The Picture House  AberdeenScotlandWith G L Alexander


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 3British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 3Royal Academy exhibitors    1911, no 1666
Item 3 of 3Spencer-Longhurst, Paul (ed.)1989Robert Atkinson 1883-1952 Achitectural Association (contributions by Gavin Stamp and Alan Powers) 

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v19 no2039 (microfilm reel 20); F v22 no 1564 (microfilm reel 13)