Cambridge University

Ax:son Johnson Centre for the Study of Classical Architecture

Sir Edwin Lutyens: the ‘High Game’

Sir Edwin Lutyens by Walter Stoneman, whole-plate glass negative, 1924 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Edwin Lutyens: the 'High Game'

Friday 15 – SUNDAY 17 november 2024

downing college, cambridge


The year 2024 marks the 80th anniversary of the death of Sir Edwin Lutyens – and coincidentally the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Lutyens Trust, which promotes the preservation of and research into the work of Lutyens. Knighted in 1918, recipient of the RIBA Gold Medals in 1921 and of the AIA in 1925, Lutyens has been regarded by some architectural historians as Britain’s greatest 20th-century architect. His design for the Cenotaph in Whitehall encapsulates with extraordinary dignity the national sentiment of sacrifice in the cause of freedom that still surrounds the two World Wars and his Viceroy’s House (now the Rashtrapati Bhavan) in New Delhi is a universally acknowledged architectural masterpiece. Lutyens’s death and the interment of his ashes in St Paul’s Cathedral in London in 1944 was quickly followed by publication of the three large volumes forming the Lutyens Memorial and a canonising biography by Country Life’s Christopher Hussey. Eighty years on, his overall standing is not so clear. Lutyens’s early, Arts and Crafts-inspired houses have continued to gather admirers, but his shift to classicism in his later designs – the ‘High Game’ as he called it – has left his architectural legacy less obvious. 

In this respect, Lutyens might be compared with Sir John Soane a century earlier, who died feted but with few immediate followers. In the case of Soane, however, scholars and architects have in the past half century found new ways of appraising and evaluating his work. Is something similar possible for our understanding of Lutyens’s ‘High Game’ as we enter the second quarter of the 21st century? There has been no major exhibition of Lutyens’s work since that of 1981 in the  Hayward Gallery, and such publications as there have been on his later career have tended to focus on his non-UK works. 

This conference at the Ax:son Johnson Centre for the Study of Classical Architecture in Cambridge will explore Lutyens’s relationship with the classical tradition and with British contemporary practitioners, his early detachment from academic approaches and his later inventive experiments in those same traditions. The way in which his classical work was shaped by his engagement with certain patrons, collaborators, materials, and how his work has been perceived and discussed by both contemporary and later audiences. Furthermore, the way in which his legacy has shifted in significance and influence will also be considered. The formation of Lutyens Trust America in 2017 illustrates the new interest in this highly original figure in the story of British – and world – Architecture.

Sir Edwin Lutyens by Bernard Partridge, c. 1927 © National Portrait Gallery, London


Day 1: Friday, 15 November

Part I:  Lunch and Walking Tour 

Time: 12:30 – 15:00

Location: Tim Cadbury Room (Staircase E), Downing College

12:30 – Buffet lunch at Downing College

13:15 – Guided walking tour of Cambridge Colleges, including the interior of the Trinity College ‘Wren’ Library and Pembroke College Chapel by Sir Christopher Wren


Part II: Keynote and Roundtable

Time: 16:00 – 18:30

Location: TBA

16:00 – Keynote lecture by Craig Hamilton (Craig Hamilton Architects)

Roundtable discussion led by Hugh Petter (ADAM Architecture)


17:30 – Drinks and canapés reception

The 6 ton rolling gate at Liverpool Cathedral © Andrew Barnett, Lutyens Trust Photo Archive
Thiepval Cemetery © Amanda Slater

Day 2: Saturday, 16 November

Part III: Conference Papers and Reception 

Time: 9:30 – 18:30

Location: Howard Theatre, Downing College

9.30 – Registration and coffee in the Grace Howard Room

10.00 – Welcome with Frank Salmon (Director of CSCA, University of Cambridge) and Clive Aslet (Visiting professor of CSCA, University of Cambridge)

10:15 – Session 1 – The Road to Classicism

Chair: Ankie Barnes (Barnes Vance Architects)

  • ‘Making Up His Mind: Lutyens’s education and (later) self-education’, by Luka Pajovic (CSCA, University of Cambridge)
  • ‘Lutyens and European Classicism’, by Timothy Brittain-Catlin (University of Cambridge)
  • ‘The Role of Neo-Georgian’, by Robin Prater (The Lutyens Trust America)

Chaired Q&A

Coffee break

12:00 – SESSION 2 – People and Patrons

Chair: Tom Kligerman (Kligerman Architecture and Design)

  • ‘Lady Emily Lutyens’, by Jane Ridley (University of Buckingham and Lutyens’s granddaughter)
  • ‘Money talks: Reginald McKenna, Lutyens and the Midland Bank’, by Clive Aslet (CSCA, University of Cambridge)
  • ‘Private Dialogues: Lutyens, Sir George Sitwell and Renishaw Hall’, by Jeremy Musson  (Independent Scholar)

Chaired Q&A

13:00 – Buffet lunch (Grace Howard room)

14:15 – Session 3 – Playing ‘the High Game’

Chair: Charles Holland (Charles Holland Architects)

  • ‘Rome, the Orders, and Lutyens’s City Plans’, by Hugh Petter (ADAM Architecture)
  • ‘Understanding New Delhi in the Context of the Garden City Movement’, by Malvika Singh
  • ‘The Roman Catholic designs: Liverpool Cathedral and Campion Hall’, by David Lewis (University of Oxford)

Chaired Q&A

Tea break

16:00 – Session 4 – LEGACIES

Chair: Rosemary Hill (Author)

  • ‘”Springtime for Lutyens”: 1981 Hayward Gallery Exhibition’, by Alan Powers (C20 Society)
  • ‘The War Graves Commission’, by Mark Connelly (University of Kent)
  • ‘The Decline and Rebirth of the Classical Tradition after WWII’, by John Simpson (CSCA, University of Cambridge)

Chaired Q&A

17:00 – Closing Remarks
17:30 – Sparkling wine reception

PART IV: Conference Dinner in St John’s College 

Time: 19:30 – 22:00

Location: The Dining Hall, St John’s College

Attendees are invited to dine in St. John’s College Hall, a 16th-century building with a stunning hammer-beam roof and characteristic old linen-fold panelling enveloping the space. A three-course seated meal will be served with wine from St John’s cellar. There will be an post-dinner speech delivered by Piers Gough (CZWG).

Day 3: Sunday, 17 November

Part V: Coach Tour

Time: TBA

Location: Meet outside the Hot Numbers on Trumpington Street

This coach tour will include visiting Knebworth House, where lunch will be served. Further details will be updated in early July. Registration for the tour will open the second week of July. Please note there is a maximum number of attendees, set at 25 pax.


This event is open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend, especially students of architecture and architectural history. The conference includes different events, as outlined below. Please register via the link (at right) on CSCA’s Eventbrite page.

Registered students may use code “STUDENTS50” for discounted rates (excluding the conference dinner).

Friday, 15 November

Part I: Lunch and Walking Tour of Cambridge

£20 for general attendees | £10 for registered students

Part II: Roundtable Discussion and Reception

£20 for general attendees | £10 for registered students


Saturday, 16 November

Part III: Conference and Reception at Downing College

£70 for general attendees | £35 for registered students

Part IV: Conference Dinner in St John’s College Hall

£90 per person (includes a 3-course seated meal in the hall and a 1/2 bottle of wine per person)


Sunday, 17 November

Part V: Coach tour

£50 for general attendees | £25 for registered students

Practical Information


If you are staying overnight in Cambridge and require hotel accommodation, there are several hotels nearby, including the Regency Guesthouse, an independent boutique hotel, the Hotel du Vin, a charming historic hotel, and the University Arms, a luxury hotel located directly across Regent Street from Downing College. There is also the Ibis Hotel at the Cambridge Rail Station, which is about a 15-minute walk to Downing College. Please kindly note that the conference is not holding rooms for attendees.


If you are planning on arriving in Cambridge by car, there are public parking facilities available in Cambridge. Click here for more information. Please note that unless you are a member of Downing College, no parking is available on site. 

Country Life Building © Andrew Barnett, Lutyens Trust Photo Archive