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Gillespie, Kidd & Coia: ecclesiastical architecture 1931-1979

Robertson, James David (2017) Gillespie, Kidd & Coia: ecclesiastical architecture 1931-1979. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Due to the continued success of the architectural practice of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia (1927- 87) over many decades of the twentieth century, this study provides an important opportunity to examine building designs shaped by a number of its contributors. Giacomo Antonio Coia (1898-1981), more usually known simply as Jack Coia, winner of the 1969 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, became its principal practitioner following the death of his partner, William Kidd (1879-1929). Many individuals passed through the practice doors, some simply as apprentices, while others would graduate to the level of architectural assistant, and a small number would eventually become partners in the firm. The practice created an array of interesting and sometimes experimental work for a number of institutions (they undertook few private commissions for individual clients). Foremost was their work for the Roman Catholic Church, the engagement of which ensured a rich source of commissions until Coia’s retirement in 1976. In recent years, we have been taught of the contributions of individual members of the practice, and to the significance of its final experimental phase of church building. However, the ecclesiastical designs of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia provide a vehicle for the study of the way in which a single practice could respond to a rapidly changing twentieth century landscape of architectural theory and practice, liturgical narrative and societal and demographic upheaval and transition. This was due not least to the continued presence of ecclesiastical commissions from the early phase of practice, the firm’s survival of the vicissitudes of war, and to its subsequent re-emergence and burgeoning success. This thesis suggests an alternative view to the separation of the practice’s chronological history and personnel. Instead, it proposes that through measured analysis, it is possible to understand the rich and varied ecclesiastical compositions of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia as a complete body of work, and to demonstrate that in linking their later schemes with those that came earlier, their work has international significance and parallels.

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