Cambridge University

Ax:son Johnson Centre for the Study of Classical Architecture

CONFERENCE: Sir Edwin Lutyens: the ‘High Game’

Screenshot 2024-03-27 at 9.01.00 AM

Sir Edwin Lutyens: the 'High Game'

Friday 15 – Saturday 16 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


Friday, 15 November

16:00 – Roundtable discussion led by Hugh Petter (ADAM Architecture)

Drinks reception


Saturday, 16 November

9.30 – Registration in the Grace Howard Room, Downing College

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

  • ‘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)

Coffee break

12:00 – SESSION 2 – People and Patrons

  • ‘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)

13:00 – Buffet lunch (Grace Howard room)

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

  • ‘Rome, the Orders, and Lutyens’s City Plans’, by Hugh Petter (ADAM Architecture)
  • ‘The Roman Catholic designs: Liverpool Cathedral and Campion Hall’, by David Lewis (University of Oxford)

Tea break

16:00 – Session 4 – LEGACIES

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

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


The cost to attend the Roundtable discussion on Friday includes a drinks reception, and the cost to attend the Conference and Keynote Lecture on Saturday includes coffee, a buffet lunch, tea and cake, and a drinks reception.

Friday Roundtable discussion: £20 for general attendees | £10 for students

Saturday Conference: £70 for general attendees | £35 for students


Country Life Building © Andrew Barnett, Lutyens Trust Photo Archive

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.