Published  08/03/2007

Constant Gardiner

The much-admired British architect and critic/historian Stephen Gardiner has died in England, aged 82. Gardiner became chiefly known as a domestic architect, with a special appeal to private clients. For example, in order to achieve improvement and commodity for the Baring family at Stratton Park, in the South of England, he ruthlessly but skilfully demolished most of the palatial Palladian building designed by George Dance, in which the Baring family were not happy by the 1960s. Gardiner retained the pedimented and columned portico, but like the good surgeon he was, demolished the rest. The low-profiled cubic blocks with which he replaced the grand palace nonplussed conservationists, more anti-modern than today. But the new house was convenient and habitable, and through the portico related well to the Enlightenment landscape, which the Barings had also inherited. Stephen Gardiner is also celebrated for carefully detailed housing, which he completed later in Milton Keynes new town, close by the Grand Union Canal there. Gardiner was well recognised as a teacher at Oxford Brookes School of Architecture and also Washington University in the USA. Gardiner would never betray professional standards which he insisted be maintained, which to his mind entailed a constant loyalty to a humanist-modernist ethos. As a regular press correspondent on architecture, Gardiner never failed to grasp the nettle and his critiques were skilfully composed but equally devastating when he deemed it necessary for the public good. As a skilful and talented author he is well known for historical works he completed such as 'The Evolution of the House', still essential reading for students. Gardiner not only published a key biography of Jacob Epstein (1992) but also the official biography on the sculptor Elizabeth Frink.

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