This authoritative biography of Sir Robert Matthew (1906-1975), one of the dominant figures in 20th century British architecture, interweaves his personal story with the turbulent political and social cross-currents of the welfare-state-era. A strong-willed, idealistic leader, Matthew exploited the great narratives of the day public collectivism and private individualism, modernity and tradition to help chart a wider strategy for architecture in Britain and abroad. Although famous as head of the Royal Festival Hall design team and founder of the architectural practice RMJM, Matthew was above all concerned with complex social and ethical issues.
Unlike today's signature architects' preoccupation with 'iconic' image-making, his Modernist world-view combined a strong individual sense of mission with passionate committment to collective welfare-socialism. The post-war tension between public and private spheres was mirrored in Matthew's compartmentalised lifestyle: his commanding yet affable public persona contrasted with his complex private character, addicted to unconventional characters, situations and change. Above all an 'organisation architect', Matthew's prodigious work ethic and wide-ranging interests won him high-profile roles. The undisputed leader of post-war architecture in his native Scotland, Matthew was knighted in 1962, and became simultaneously President of the RIBA and the International Union of Architects, as well as founder-President of the Commonwealth Association of Architects.
Miles Glendinning's Modern Architect: The Life and Times of Robert Matthew is a monumental achievement of historical scholarship that not only synthesises the disparate threads of Matthews own life but also sets out a comprehensively nuanced, balanced picture of the broad context of post-war modern architecture in Britain.