Amyas Connell and Basil Ward were both born in New Zealand at the turn of the 20th century, and met while studying architecture at the New Zealand Institute of Architecture. They decided to make the journey to Britain to continue their studies, paying their way as stokers on the passage over. They arrived in London in March 1924, and found digs in Torrington Square, while they continued their studies at RIBA. The pair expanded their architectural horizons by travelling to Europe, taking in buildings by Auguste Perret and Le Corbusier. They subsequently both won places at the British School in Rome, where Connell met Bernard Ashmole the director of the school, who would later prove to an influential client.
Colin Lucas was born in Greenwich in 1906, and began his architectural studies at Trinity College in Cambridge, where among his contemporaries were Raymond McGrath and Christopher Nicholson. He finished his studies in 1928 and went into business with his father and a friend as Lucas, Lloyd and Co. where he produced concrete buildings like Noah’s House, Bourne End and the Flat Roof House, Little Frieth. Ward married Connell’s sister, Beatrice in 1928 and moved to Rangoon for two years. Connell returned to Britain in 1929 just as the Great Depression was beginning and the building trade had crashed, setting up in partnership with Australian architect Stewart Lloyd Thomson.
The practice did not just design houses for the rich. They designed Kent House in Camden for the St Pancras House Improvement Society in 1934. The design comprised of two four storey blocks, with each apartment having 2 or 3 bedrooms, electric kitchens and balconies. Like other Connell Ward and Lucas buildings, Kent House has been Grade II listed and recently refurbished. Among other projects the practice took on in their short lifespan included, The Vitamin Cafe in Oxford Street (1931), a Health Shop in Welbeck Street (1932), Sound City film studios in Shepperton (1936) and flats and shops in St Johns Wood (1938). This last project was to be a six storey luxury apartment block next to Lords cricket ground. Construction began in 1935, but halted in 1938 due to financial problems with the developers. The ground and first floor were added to in 1961 by the firm of Trehearne, Norman Preston and Partners, and lasted until 2000 when the whole building was demolished and redeveloped.
Even though their partnership only lasted 6 years, the influence of Connell, Ward and Lucas was felt far into the post war period. They produced a relatively small amount of work, but most survive as listed buildings and those such as Greenside, that haven’t, are mourned. Houses like High and Over, 66 Frognal and Potcroft were forward looking at the time of construction and remain contemporary in the 21st century. The three distinct personalities and abilities of Amyas Connell, Basil Ward and Colin Lucas came together to produce modernist buildings that have survived the changing opinions of architecture and the public.
References: Paul Mellon Centre
Connell, Ward and Lucas: Modern movement architects in England 1929-1939 (London, 2008) Dennis Sharp and Sally Rendell.