Theo Crosby Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The material covers the extent of Crosby's career, from student papers to projects he was working on at his death, though the weight is balanced towards the later part of his career, Early highlights include Crosby's submission for the Unknown Political Prisoner competition set by the ICA in 1952. There are extensive architectural drawings; project files and business correspondence; writings of all kinds, including manuscripts for books, reviews, lectures and articles; some teaching materials; personal material including an extensive run of pocketbooks in which Crosby drew and made notes in the course of his daily work and travels; Teaching materials; presscuttings; photographs and a large body of slides including those made when travelling; and a small amount of multimedia material including audio recordings; publications, including, but not confined to, Crosby's own writing and editing projects. There are also large bodies of material relating to certain projects, such as 'How to Play the Environment Game' exhibition at the Hayward Gallery

Administrative / Biographical History

Theo Crosby (1925-1994) was an architect, sculptor, writer and designer, who worked collaboratively across many disciplines and a broad range of interests. He is particularly known for his involvement in the design partnership Pentagram and as the architect of Shakespeare's Globe theatre in London, a reconstruction of the theatre where plays were first shown.

Born in South Africa, Crosby studied architecture at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, before moving to Britain in 1948. From 1949, he assisted architects Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew and Denys Lasdun, while studying sculpture at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in the evenings. There he became friends with teachers Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi and Edward Wright, bringing him into the Independent Group of artists, designers and writers. It was Crosby who suggested the influential exhibition 'This is Tomorrow', which the group organized at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1956, and which involved Alison and Peter Smithson, Nigel Henderson, Sir Colin Wilson, Paolozzi and others.

At the same time, Crosby was Technical Editor of 'Architectural Design and Construction' magazine, from 1953-1962. Under its editor, Monica Pidgeon, the magazine was a consciously alternative voice to the Architectural Review. Crosby also edited the little magazine 'Upper Case', from 1958-60, and of the ICA's 'Living Arts' magazine, and was responsible for the exhibition of the same name, which showcased the Archigram group of experimental architects.

For a brief period, Crosby led the innovative Design Group attached to Taylor Woodrow; though influential, none of its main urban projects were realised. Other architectural projects of this period included buildings for the International Union of Architects' congress in London in 1961. In 1965, at the invitation of Colin Forbes, Crosby joined the design practice of [Alan] Fletcher Forbes [Bob] Gill, leading the architecture team; Gill soon departed, and the firm became Crosby Fletcher Forbes, and then, with the arrival of Mervyn Kurlansky and Kenneth Grange, Pentagram in 1972. Crosby conceived and edited the Pentagram Papers series of publications, of which he also wrote several.

Crosby's architectural projects include alterations to Chalcot House, Wiltshire; Unilever House interiors, London; NMB Bank interiors, Amsterdam; Battle of Britain Monument (with Michael Sandle) and Pedro Guedes, 1987; not realised) and Shakespeare's Globe, although he died before its completion in 1997.

Alongside his work at Pentagram, Crosby sustained involvement in a wide range of other projects. In the exhibition 'How to play the environment game', held at the Hayward Gallery in 1973, he explored and articulated ideas and arguments about the processes and practices of urban development. In the 1980s he continued this turn away from the modernism of 1960s to promote a greater regard for history, place and anti-materialist interests. He established the Art & Architecture Society in 1982, with the aim of encouraging inter-discplinary collaboration. In his vision for Shakespeare's Globe, Crosby kick-started the regeneration of this part of the South Bank.

Crosby was Professor of Architecture and Design at the RCA 1990-1993. He was made ARA in 1982, and RA in 1990. He married twice, to Anne Buchanan, with whom he had a daughter; and to Polly Hope. Crosby and Hope, an artist herself, collaborated extensively both on commissions and in the creation of their home in Spitalfields.

Arrangement

The collection is not yet catalogued, but falls into the following series:

TCR/1 Project files

TCR/2 Architectural drawings

TCR/3 Correspondence

TCR/4 Writings

TCR/5 Papers documenting art practice, including pocket books

TCR/6 Teaching materials

TCR/7 Personal papers

TCR/8 Photographs

TCR/9 Slides

TCR/10 Presscuttings

TCR/11 Multimedia

TCR/12 Publications 

Conditions Governing Access

Researchers wishing to consult the collection should make an appointment. Telephone 44 (0)1273 643217 or email designarchives@brighton.ac.uk.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the Design Archives by Theo Crosby's widow, Polly Hope, in 2012.

Other Finding Aids

Box list available at repository.

Archivist's Note

Record created by Sue Breakell

Conditions Governing Use

Permission must be sought to publish any material from the collection. Email designarchives@brighton.ac.uk.

Related Material

Material relating to Shakespeare's Globe is held by that institution.

Theo Crosby's library is at the Royal Academy.

Bibliography

Major writings by Crosby include the following:

'An anthology of houses' (with Monica Pidgeon, Batsford, 1960)

'The architecture of technology' (IUA, 1961)

'Architecture: city sense' (Studio Vista,1965)

'The necessary monument' (Penguin, 1970)

'A sign systems manual' (with Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes) (1970)

'How to play the environment game' (Penguin, 1973)

'Learn to see: look around you' (with Peter Lloyd-Jones, Art & Architecture, 1990)

'Stonehenge tomorrow' (with Peter Lloyd-Jones, Kingston University, 1992)

Pentagram Papers by Crosby:

'The pessimist utopia' (1977)

'Unilever house: towards a new ornament' (1984)

'The lives of monuments' (1985)

'The Battle of Britain monument' (with Pedro Guedes and Michael Sandle, 1987)

'Let's build a monument' (1987)