Architect of the Brixton Rec

George Finch, architect, born 10 October 1930, died 13 February 2013

From the Guardian: 

The architect George Finch has died, aged 82, at the height of a campaign to save his Brixton Recreation Centre, in south London, designed in 1971 and opened in 1985. It was planned as the centrepiece of a redevelopment that was to include 50-storey blocks of flats, a new shopping and commercial centre on raised walkways, and a motorway. The rest of the scheme was abandoned with the 1973 oil crisis, and something of its gargantuan craziness afflicted the long construction and subsequent reputation of Finch's sports centre.

Yet, with its range of facilities, raised over the market and including a pool so high you can watch trains on the adjoining viaduct while swimming, it became the hub of Brixton's multicultural community. Finch was keen that individual sports should not be closed off and created a large, buzzing atrium linking the facilities. This was his most complex and individual building, for it was as a housing architect that he established his career.

Finch was born in Tottenham, north London, the son of a milkman. He was encouraged to pursue a good education by his mother and this was boosted when George and his sister were evacuated during the second world war to Saffron Walden, Essex, where he attended Newport free grammar school. He had already determined to be an architect. Studying at North London Polytechnic (now London Metropolitan University), Finch found the teaching so uninspiring that he ventured to the Architectural Association (AA), condemned by his tutors as "wayward and impractical". Warming immediately to its radical bohemianism, he secured its one London county council (LCC) scholarship in 1950. The AA's utopian socialism matched his own, from which the LCC's housing division was an inevitable next step.

Finch was appointed to ginger up a team of elderly surveyors, whose repetitive scheme for Spring Walk, Stepney, had been rejected. Finch's design exemplified the best of mixed development, the dominant ideology for housing in the 1950s, with a 10-storey block of flats that gave space for old people's flats and two-storey houses, unique in central London at the time. Flats at the top of the tower had roof gardens. It was followed by work on the Suffolk Estate in Haggerston, an early low-rise, high-density scheme, again with houses as well as flats.

The halcyon days for LCC housing ended with the reorganisation of London government in 1965, when responsibility for most house building passed to the boroughs. Finch joined the new architect's department created at Lambeth in 1963 by Edward Hollamby, also from the LCC. Hollamby adopted a pre-cast system for six tower blocks on landmark sites to relieve the borough's most urgent needs, while his department explored low-rise solutions and refurbishment. Finch made a detailed study that refuted system-building's claims to be quicker and cheaper than conventional construction, but he contributed to the heavily articulated towers, giving them a distinctive profile and setting them at angles he described as "dancing around".
Lambeth Towers, London, deisgned by George FinchFinch’s masterpiece was Lambeth Towers,opposite the Imperial War Museum, London. Photograph: James O Davies/English Heritage

Cotton Gardens in Kennington Lane, completed in 1968, was the most distinctive. Finch's masterpiece was Lambeth Towers, a one-off design opposite the Imperial War Museum, 10 storeys of flats set over a luncheon club and doctor's surgery, inspired by the work of Moshe Safdie and built at the same time as Safdie's Habitat blocks for the Montreal Expo of 1967. Each flat was individually articulated within a cranked concrete frame that maximised the tight site, creating a strong, square patterning that evoked Piet Mondrian's paintings.

Finch left Lambeth when the Brixton Recreation Centre received planning and financial approval and, a keen thespian and set designer, he formed a partnership with the theatre architect Roderick Ham. As a result of the 1970s recession, only the Derby Playhouse and Wolsey theatre, Ipswich, were realised, while schemes for Westminster Pier and Riverside Studios in Fulham, developed with Will Alsop and John Lyall, proved abortive.

From 1973 until 1978 Finch was head of design in the school of architecture at Thames Polytechnic (now Greenwich University), and then worked with Bob Giles as Architects Workshop in Docklands, where Hollamby was now in charge of redevelopment.

In the late 1960s Finch had met the young architect Kate Macintosh, then working at Southwark, whom he later married. They developed second careers in Hampshire, Finch as a consultant (from 1987) to the county council and later in partnership together. He advised on the rehabilitation of the county's older schools and added library and drama facilities. He also worked on historic buildings, adapting All Saints, Lewes, in East Sussex, into a theatre; a school in Dulwich, London, into housing; and Chelsea town hall, London, into a library. An adventure playground in Southampton designed with Macintosh won an RIBA award in 2005.

Finch's background, training and passionate socialism gave him a real desire to build for ordinary people, to bring dignity and pleasure into their lives. His great personal warmth and humanity shone out in his work which, with that of Macintosh, was celebrated in a documentary film, Utopia London, in 2010.

He is survived by Kate and their son, Sean; and by five children, Alison, Emma, Sarah, Adam and Jonny, from his first marriage, to Brenda, which ended in divorce. Copyright (c)

Kate Macintosh. Photograph (c) Emma Calder Oct 2012


  1. There is a great scope for architecture all over the world. we need architecture for design and construction of building. Due to the increasing demand of industries, many student looking for certified architecture colleges in chennai to acquire the knowledge.

  2. It’s a classic great for me to go to this blog site, it offers helpful suggestions.
    Architecture Colleges in Chennai | B.Arch Colleges in Chennai

  3. The information given in this blog was very useful. It explains about the architect George and his interior design experience. Thanks for sharing.
    with regards
    Office Interior Decorators in Chennai

  4. This post is very useful for us. Because we have a lot of
    tips and tricks from this post. Thank you for this amazing post piles
    When Only the Best Will Do.Best Underpinning services the Sydney Metro area. We provide services in the area of new basement construction, basement waterproofing, foundation underpinning, concrete crack repairs, foundation repairs, foundation underpinning, helical piers, resistance piers, foundation piles, retaining walls and curtain piles

  5. It is so helpful that I am sure everyone will praise you for sharing this information. Wonderful work. Architecture College

  6. I like reading all the different viewpoints one thing everyone. Please Visit:

    barn conversion essex
    listed buildings london
    interior design essex


  7. Wow, very brilliant buildings. Quite inspiring! I think I'll be doing some more building building myself

    Home Interiors Chennai

  8. It is amazing and wonderful to visit your site.Thanks for sharing this information,this is useful to me...
    interior designers in chennai

  9. You have made your points in a smart way. I am impressed with how interesting you have been able to present this content. Thanks for sharing a nice information. Do support us
    Best Modular Kitchen Designers In Chennai

  10. Great Blog! This post gives a better idea. Thanks for the useful information. I hope you will share some more content. Please keep sharing!
    Interior Designers In Chennai
    Interior Decorators In Chennai
    Modular Kitchen Chennai
    Home Interior Designers In Chennai
    Office Interior Designers In Chennai

  11. I am a regular reader of your blog and being students it is great to read that your responsibilities have not prevented you from continuing your study and other activities. Love
    interior decorators in chennai
    Modular kitchen in chennai

  12. Great Article… I love to read your articles because your writing style is too good, its is very very helpful for all of us and I never get bored while reading your article because, they are becomes a more and more interesting from the starting lines until the end.
    Best Interior Designers
    home interiors in chennai
    Commercial interior designers in chennai

  13. Great Article… I love to read your articles because your writing style is too good, its is very very helpful for all of us and I never get bored while reading your article because, they are becomes a more and more interesting from the starting lines until the end.
    Office interior designers in chennai
    living room interior designers in chennai
    False ceiling interiors designers in chennai

  14. Nice tutorial. Thanks for sharing the valuable information. it’s really helpful. Who want to learn this blog most helpful. Keep sharing on updated tutorials…
    Pooja room interior desingers in chennai
    Hotel Interior desingers in chennai
    Hospital interior designers in chennai

  15. It's interesting that many of the bloggers to helped clarify a few things for me as well as giving.Most of ideas can be nice content.The people to give them a good shake to get your point and across the command
    interior designers in chennai

  16. I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post
    House Renovations in Hammersmith

  17. It is amazing and wonderful to visit your site.Thanks for sharing this information,this is useful to me...
    House Renovations in Bermondsey