Sir George Grenfell Baines in association with H J Reifenberg

Design for Power and Production Pavilion, 1951 Festival of Britain

31×63 cm

Watercolour

Drawing by John Alexander Strubbe FRIBA, signed and dated 1949

Born in Germany in the 1890s in Berlin and educated in Berlin, Reifenberg left Germany for Czechoslovakia in May 1933 as the Nazis came to power, moving in November that year to Palestine. Reifenberg contracted polio when practising in Jerusalem on an archaelogical dig and being subsequently unable to hold a pen properly. Deciphering his scrawls was an unenviable task of his assistants. In August 1938 he moved to London. Reifenberg’s notable buildings following the Pavilion include a synagogue in Swiss Cottage and a residential home for the elderly in Bishops Avenue which earned him a Civic Trust Award.

Grenfell-Baines (1908-2003) founded one of Britain’s earliest and largest multi-disciplinary architectural practices. Qualifying at Manchester University having worked for a Bolton firm for some years his practice expanded greatly during the war years, designing factories and runways, having five offices across the north of England by 1947. He was the only northern architect invited by Hugh Casson to design a Festival building. His greatest design – which sadly was never built having become mired in politics – was for a vast United Nations complex in Vienna.

Although described as being by George Grenfell-Baines in association with HJ Reifenberg, in reality the Festival of Britain’s Power and Produciton Pavilion was produced by Reifenberg in his home office in Putney, Grenfell-Baines’ input being limited to occasional flying visits. Designed as a testament to the industrial might of Britain, Power and Production was an architectural triumph of real quality, designed to look from the outside as a modern factory might, with all the materials of the highest quality, a great structure with impressive glass windows. Reifenberg commissioned Crittalls and Pilkingtons for the windows and they – along with other manufacturers – were desperate to please in this showcase of British craftsmanship with every detail being drawn out, often at full size. The Pavilion included the ‘largest sheet of glass in the world’ which sadly when displayed inside the building did not impress.

Kelvin Hall, in Glasgow, held a now-largely-forgotten exhibition in 1951, the ‘Exhibition of Industrial Power’ which was the biggest Festival of Britain event outside London, whilst sadly under-visited at the time focussed on the development of electricity from coal and other sources. This Pavilion in London however focussed on the conversion of coal to electricity and the powering of Britain’s industry. A dozen working machines formed the centre of the Pavilion, including one that made sweets.

A famous design failure was the dog kennels. Huskies were employed in the Dome of Discovery to drag sledges. When resting, they were in a pit and proved able to jump out of it – and indeed keen as it was rather hot. We also have for sale some correspondence regarding amendments to these kennels.

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