“The piece of cod which passes all understanding”
~Edwin Lutyens (whose wife never mastered the art of cooking).
To an amateur like myself there’s something especially admirable about someone who reaches the peak of their profession without any formal training. Raymond Blanc has achieved this in the world of cooking; Edwin Lutyens did it in architecture. Edwin (Ned) Lutyens never qualified as an architect; in fact because of illness he spent only two years at school and then, after a year as a teenager in an architect’s office, decided to set off on his own. As Matthew Parris told us in ‘Great Lives’, Gertrude Jekyll gave him a baptism of fire by giving him the commission to design Munstead and then, to Lutyens’ intense fury, endlessly rejecting his designs until he got it right.
Lutyens used only stone, brick and wood in his houses, never concrete, even though this was the trendy material for modern architects during his heyday. The concrete boxes which won so many accolades have all crumbled and are proving desperately difficult to keep watertight and to preserve. The houses which Lutyens built of stone, brick and wood are still standing and are still greatly admired, not least by me.