Modernism Optimism Medicine Architecture

Travel from the Southbank to The Regent’s Park and discover how architectural experimentation, medical progress and social reform went hand in hand throughout the 20th century and before. 

National Theatre and Opera House Model

A special half day study tour devised as part of the Royal College of Physicians’ 2014 celebrations of the centenary of the birth of visionary architect Sir Denys Lasdun and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the College’s Grade I listed headquarters in 1964.

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Join our qualified guide and historian to explore the curative pavilions, paupers’ houses and ‘people’s palaces’ of the Southbank.

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Visit St Thomas’, The Royal Festival Hall and Lasdun’s own iconic National Theatre to uncover why improved homes, places of healing and public temples of culture came to be seen as vital to delivering national health and well-being.

Learn when, in a spirit of post war optimism, modernism became the architectural style of choice to render the hopes ambitions of a nation literally concrete realities. 

After a short break to cross the Thames, the tour resumes at the Institute of Education, which together with the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London forms Lasdun’s largest scale work in the capital.

Library Philips Building Soas

Cutting across the city’s academic quarter see how medicine has embraced the new and bold in building technology, interior design and sometimes architectural style. 

Taking in Art Deco, Gothic, and the occasional surprisingly industrial Georgian structure, view where, by means of appropriation, new construction and accommodation medical science has made a home in the heart of the West End.

Fire Escape, Royal College of Physicians by Helene Binet

The event concludes with refreshments and a private guided tour of the Royal College of Physicians including parts of the building not normally open to the public.

“Fifty years on, the complex, confident lines of Denys Lasdun’s Royal College of Physicians remain an unqualified success…”

Rowan Moore, The Observer

Part architectural odyssey, part ode to the eternal optimism of the medical profession, this special event promises to fascinate and stimulate those with an interest in modern architecture, medical and social history or simply a passion for our capital city.

Royal College of Physicians, contemporary

To make a reservation for a private group, contact us at 

Dates:  Available for booking by private groups of 6 or more by prior arrangement

Location: Commences St Thomas’ Hospital concludes Royal College of Physicians

Duration:  4 to 4 1/2 hours, including breaks

Price:  £25 (including refreshments at The Royal College of Physicians)

Click here for more information, a map and directions to the Royal College of Physicians.


Photo credits: (1) National Theatre and Opera House Model (c) Lasdun Archive / RIBA (2) & (3) National Theatre found on Flickr (4) Philips Building, SOAS (c) SOAS (5) Fire Escape, Royal College of Physicians (c) Helene Binet / RCP (6) Royal College of Physicians (c) RCP

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