Norman and Dawbarn

aeronautical consultants

The practice was originally formed as aeronautical consultants in 1933 by Graham Dawbarn, F A I Muntz and Nigel Norman under the style Norman Muntz and Dawbarn. Owing to his other activities Alan Muniz was unable to take an active part in the firm, and he consequently requested that his name be withdrawn. From 1935 the practice was continued under the style of Norman and Dawbarn. Graham Dawbarn was an architect; Sir Henry 'Nigel' Norman (1897—1943), who succeeded to a baronetcy, was a civil engineer specializing in aviation, and skilled at bringing airport commissions to the practice. Together, the two men were responsible for designs of buildings and lay-outs of many municipal airports in the UK and overseas, including those at Birmingham, Ringway Manchester, Perth, Jersey, and Guernsey. In 1938 they tookInto partnership Robert Richardson, A.I.A.A. (registered architect) and R. F. Lloyd Jones, B.A„ Assoc.M.Inst.C.E. (chartered civil engineer).

However, their association pre-dated the formation of the partnership. In 1929 the Royal Institute of British Architects set up an aerodromes committee, with the objective of studying airport design. In 1931 Dawbarn received an RIBA bursary to visit airports in the United States, and made a particular study of Burbank during a three-week 6,600-mile tour of the United States in a small plane piloted by Nigel Norman. At this time Norman was an aeronautical engineer and squadron-leader in the auxiliary air force. He was also the chairman of Airwork, an aviation conglomerate which had built Heston aerodrome in 1929 (designed with L.M. Austin). Burbank, California, built by the Austin Company of Cleveland, opened in May 1930. The virtues of Burbank (and similar ‘runway airports’ at San Francisco, New Orleans, Buffalo and Pittsburg) were subsequently extolled over European grass airstrips by Norman and Dawbarn in a number of lectures and articles on airport design.

To promote the new practice, they cultivated the Marquess of Londonderry (Air Minister 1931-35), for whom they built an airfield at Newtownards and through whose influence they obtained the commission to design a major new airport at Lydda in Palestine (1934), on the empire route to India. While not curved, the building ascended in a series of terraces while the airfield was laid out on the Duval pattern. Their next major project was a municipal airport terminal at Elmdon, commissioned by Birmingham Corporation in 1935, Norman and Dawbarn used a coat-hanger shaped plan, curved on the airside. This was rejected by the client in mid-1936 on cost grounds, exacerbated by excessive circulation areas and the provision of surplus unfitted-out space for future expansion. Notwithstanding these problems, the architects continued to publicise it for some months; its successor, a smaller very different design with striking concrete canopies, was approved in July 1937.

After Norman's death in 1942, Dawbarn continued and diversified the practice, specializing in efficient delivery rather than aesthetic refinement. One of the last buildings he designed before retirement was the BBC Television Centre at Wood Green in 1958. 

In 2005 the practice was acquired by Capita Symonds following the collapse into administration.

1934    Norman Muntz and Dawbarn 43, Grosvenor Place London, SW1.
1938    Norman and Dawbarn 43, Grosvenor Place London, SW1.