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on 8 July 2011
John Craig met his future partner at the house Peter Aldington had just completed at Askett Green in the early 1960s. He described seeing the house as a revelation. "As soon as you walked into the building you knew what it was all about. I suddenly realised, here is design that is totally integrated, in that all the materials are right for the job they are doing. It was the nearest thing I've ever had to a spiritual experience."

Commissioned as one of a series on some of Britain's most intriguing 20th Century Architects this delightful book gets under the skin of its protagonists, more like an illustrated biography than a monograph. Alan Powers tells their story with warmth and affection, interweaving the thought behind their work with the trials and tribulations of architectural practice that led the two founding partners to retire in 1986.

Their best known work continues to be the three houses Aldington designed and to a large extent built with his wife Margaret in the village of Haddenham, one of which, Turn end is still their home. The thoroughness with which the details were thought through, the quality of construction and the relationship between the house and its garden became the defining qualities of the practice's work.

Aldington and Craig began by collaborating on an informal basis but it would be seven years from their first meeting before Craig gave up his advertising job to join Aldington full time, working from the studio at Turn End. Paul Collinge joined as an assistant in 1972, became a partner in 1980 and continues to practice under the name as sole principal.

According to the partners the cornerstone of their practice was the briefing process. Powers explores their methods through the individual projects, Craig developing a meticulous brief with the client and agreeing it with them before presenting it to Aldington to convert into a built form. Craig often described himself as the client's representative in the architect's office enabling him to counter the presumed arrogance of the designer and ensure that the client remained a part of the process throughout. By following the logic of a well-prepared brief they avoided formulaic solutions and were able to neatly side-step the issue of style.

In the 1970s the practice experimented with precision-welded steel, neoprene gaskets and exposed services, a shift Aldington admits was made quite deliberately to counter the hairshirt image of the early houses. The sci-fi ductwork of the Wellingborough Medical Centre or the steel and glass box of the Wedgewood House derived as much from the architects' preferences as from the functional requirements of the brief but the rigour of the detailing and unity of the whole are just as strong as in earlier projects.

Powers places Aldington, Craig & Collinge as independent practitioners outside the mainstream of British modernism, drawing parallels with close contemporaries whose pre-occupations they shared such as the Smithsons, Stirling & Gowan and Team 4. While some of these architects achieved commercial success with larger projects Aldington, Craig & Collinge remained a small practice. Powers does not spell out to what degree this was intentional but the story is an excellent record of the struggle a practice faces in trying to carry out work of quality and integrity.

The only thing that lets the book down is its format. Several projects such as the Anderton House or Chinnor Surgery are covered in sufficient detail to convey their qualities but for others the drawings are too small and the photos too few. There is something appropriately humble about it but these buildings need to be felt rather than glanced at and require a more comprehensive presentation. What comes across most strongly is the intense humanity of the work and the dignity which it lends to the lives of the people that come into contact with it.
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on 14 March 2010
Aldington & Craig were that rarest of beasts, a provincial UK practice who built an international reputation on the back of a small body of largely domestic work. However with all due respect to previous reviewers, let's be realistic about the market for a book on Aldington & Craig's humane Scandinavian-influenced Modernism; in an era when every architect who's fitted out a couple of sushi bars vanity-publishes a 'monograph', we should be grateful for any book on a firm from such an unfashionable period. The RIBA, Twentieth Century Society and English Heritage are to be congratulated on their courage in commissioning the Twentieth Century Architects series - it can't have been a commercial decision.
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on 3 January 2010
I have long been interested in the work of Aldington, Craig and Collinge and was pleased to hear that a monograph on the work of the practice was finally going to be published. The book provides a good overview of their key projects and a useful chronological list to the rear of the book gives dates of journal entries, awards and Listing status. It is pleasing to see that no less than eight of the practices projects have Listed status. The book is enjoyable to read, but does not include enough drawings and some of the photographs provided are somewhat arbitrary. However, I would certainly consider this a good purchase for anybody interested in architecture of the post war period.
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on 4 December 2009
A good book, but sorely lacking decent images, photographs and drawings, particularly of their seminal housing work.
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on 7 May 2010
Excellent text with a comprehensive overview of the practice's work. However, plans are tiny and virtually impossible to read, and photographs too small to be of much use.
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on 14 September 2010
This is a delightful discourse on one of the smaller but extremely influential architectural practices of the sixties and seventies. The work
is sensitive to context and beautifully crafted. With time given to defining the brief and an imaginative interpretation of client requirements,
extremely well executed in construction, the work remains a reference point for many architects.

What a shame the planning process proved too much for Aldington to endure and in ceasing to practice we lost a great talent.
Every architect should visit the buildings here, which I still do, and gain inspiration from how they have settled, matured and still contribute to
the delight of place.

The book is a worthy account of the trials and tribulations of attempting to produce high quality, small scale buildings of great beauty in this country.
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