Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 17, 1961)
Tuesdoy, Jon. 17, 1961
By CARROLL KRAUS
"His ociy fault, if tins can be described aa
such, is an exceptional store of energy."
That is a colleague's description of Patrick
Horsbrugh, associate professor of architecture
at the University of Nebraska.
Tall, lean (6T 17S pounds) and bespectacled,
this British-born city planner fits to a T the
American idea of what an Englishman should
look like. The unmistakeable accent, graying
hair, conservative English-tailored suit and vest
with gold w atch chain complete the picture.
But Horsbrugh is not an ordinary man.
At 38, he has accomplished more than many
ambitious architects would plan in a lifetime.
Co-author of the first serious British downtown
development proposals, an effective teacher
but with rather unorthodox methods Horsbrugh
has been described as one of the two outstand
ing graduates of the Architectural Assn. School
of Architecture m London during the years 1940-
With Horsbrugh's record, it isul surprising
Chat colleagues describe him in glowing terms
hke "exceptional" and "outstanding" and col
leges jump at the chance to put this former
Royal Air Force pilot on their staff.
One associate put it this way:
Horsbrugh is "the most outstanding architect
planner I know among his generation, as wel
s a man of high ideals and integrity, and of
great human warmth and kindness."
Now at NU for an indefinite period after staff
Assignments at Harvard, Toronto, North Caro
lina State College and the University of Illinois,
Horsbrugh brings along his own ideas of bow
to teach the college student. And he also carries
with him enthusiasm for the American Midwest
which probably couM sway many Plains States
residents from their pessimism about the future
of their states.
Settling in a Nebraska teaching position after
world-wide travels inchiding eight visits to this
country - Horsbrugh doesn't identify himself
with the typical teacher even though he has
been wrapped up with university teaching as
signments in recent years.
He has no formal teacher's training, he ex
plains. But his ideas on education are worth not
ing. Teaching, as Horsbrugh sees it, can take
many forms. But the basis is putting across the
ideas to others and trying to get ideas from
them. The ultimate, be says, is fanning enthu
sism. making a person "come to his own con
etustoos" to gam" self-confidence.
He adds these opinions:
The student must be given latitude for his
own development. Students can instruct others
to a far higher degree than is generally recog
nized. There are no set roles in teaching, es
pecially so in architecture, a subject which is
essentially a process of imagination.
He says it is foolish to try to teach archi
tecture in the conventional sense. It is "not
lace" mathematics there is bo right or wrong.'
- But teaching is fee necessity of any archi
tect, Horsbrogh points out. If not m a school,
then the architect must teach his staff or the
citizens with whom he deals. Trying to con
vince a civic committee of the validity of an
architectural plan, for instance, demands
this sort of teaching ability, he says.
la regards to his new environment, Hors
brugh said it's the Central United State's
torn to rise and ' bring together north, south,
east and west." This area has great potential,
he says, especially through it water resources,
"absolutely fundamental to civic devekspmeot."
Chicago, he thinks, could be the stimulus for
the pendulum development which started oa
the East Coast, swung west and "now what
could be more natural" thaa fettling m the
Horsbrugh, initiated into the field of educa
tion after an offer from Harvard to lecture
there, is adamant about the idea of environ
ment. His civic design course is designed "to
broaden the mind of the student to include
some appreciation of environment, be it
rb&a or rural. Getting the student to look at
his environment and assess it for the good,
bad or indifferent must be done, be says, be
fore progressing to the next essential step M
bis method of teaching, arouasing an interest
in history. "History and past events are ab
solutely inescapable and cant be denied," he
Included in the class plan is increasing the
understanding of what Britain has been do
ing in the past, for Horsbrugh says where
commonwealth development has been con
cerned, "America has had a part of it whether
M knows it or not."
Students already seem to have grown fond
of their new instructor. And they agree that
he can inspire their enthusiasm. They like .
his "different" approach to humor, too. He
gave this light-hearted version of how he ar- .
rived in Lincoln to one of his classes. He had -been
operating in the four extreme comers
of the continent, be related, and the diagonals
of these four points are found to intersect
here. ' -
One day early in the school year he an
nounced to this other class fifth year design
that it should select a class "sheriff" (pro
. nounced by Horsbrugh as sher-eef) responsible
for the regulation of conduct and handing in of
work on time among other things. The class
failed to elect its lawman, however, until one
morning when Horsbrugh arrived with a small
Carroll Krass, a senior ia jwsraalism in Arts
aad Sciences, is a past editor of The Daily. Ne
braskaa. A recent study he did m Nebraska
taxes appeared ia more , thaa 2t state news
papers. Kraas wilt gradaate ia February aad
plans to cm tinge working for The lincala
white box which be placed on his classroom
desk. After roll was taken he inquired as to
whether the class had elected the sheriff, and
several students simultaneously suggested the
name of a classmate. At this point Horsbrugh
said, "I trust by the remarks of the class that
you have not yet done so." A student then
moved that his above-mentioned peer be pro
claimed sheriff. Horsbrugh, then, with great
dignity, congratulated the new office-holder fort
being selected "Sheriff Extraordinary." Then
he picked up the small white box, opened it and
presented a glittering gold badge, "the seal of
Students in the same class like to tell of one
stormy day when rain poured down in cloud- .
burst proportions. During this time Horsbrugh
was discussing nothing other than the prob
lem of water scarcity.
Background to the Horsbrugh story begins
in the small British town of his birth, an "I8th
century village of superb beauty." To the de
signers of this town, he says, he owes a "debt
beyond recognition. The- surroundings made
Horsbrugh interested in conditions of environ
ment from the first. His interests went from
the Bat oral to the mec hanical. He buCt model
railways and ships, his parents not buying
him anything be "couldn't baQd himself." But
after entering a boarding school and coming
across some photographs of Eagish cathedrals,
Horsbrugh was sokt on architecture and design,
and since has "never had any piece of mind."
la 1333 be entered the Architectural Associa
tion School but with World War II approaching
the next year entered the Royal ArUSery. Ia
1941 he west into the RAF and trained ia Can
ada as a pOot His rank rose from sergeant
through Sight lieutenant as be was involved m
operations in the Far East, Africa and Britain.
After the war he returned to the Arct!tctural
School and graduated with honors in 1943. As
a fourth year student his achievements were re
markable. He entered two design competitions
one British, the other international winning
the first and placing highest among British en
tries in the latter, a fine record for a student
In 1949 he received a scholarship to the British
school in Rome where he did research on Italian
hill cities and in the same year began post
graduate work at London University in civic de
sign. As a student in (he years 1946-49, he had been
actively concerned with the Middlesborough
and Oxford city plans and bad considerable re
sponsibility m presenting each of these schemes.
In 1951-52, he worked with Ronald H. Sims .
former University associate professor of arch
itecture whom Horsbrugh "sent here" on pro
posals for the town of Goomsport in northern
In 1955-54, Horsbrugh and colleagues engaged
in the ftrst serious British downtown redevelop
ment proposals, called "High Paddington," and
"New Barbican." Since that time the two Lon
don projects have received international town
planning acclaim. But when presented then, the
proposals were, as Horsbrugh put it, "pro
foundly unpopular," and "frought with political
issues." An appeal to the Ministry of Housing,
for example, concerning the proposals brought
what Horsbrugh says was the greatest legal
battle the Ministry bad ever undertaken.
But now, he says, opinion in Great Britain is
swinging across to the need of the original pro-,
posals but in general "have missed the mark.""
Many ideas expressed in the proposals were of
American experience, a thing many British
One Londoner said he didn't want the city to
look like New York, expressing the attitude of -most
Englanders who were 'terrified at the
idea," feeling that the tall buildings and city
planning of New York would tend to make Eng
lishmen feel they were at the bottom of a well.
But London is congested and tight, Horsbrugh
added, while New York is a city where "the
open sky and roadways meet" "The highness
of the buildings leads to the sky, he said, thus a
Later in 1954 he became an associate of Rag
Ian Squire and Partners, a job involving con
siderable travel in the Middle and Far East.
For the next year through 1957 he taught at the
University of Illinois at Urbana and began prep
aratiua of a book on the life of William Bio re, a - '
Victorian architect He was chairman of Im
pact, a group of English consultants, and be
came deputy director of planning of Hamilton,
Ont, and recently became director.
This varied atmosphere in the last four years
was possible, Horsbrugh explains, since he has
been spending about 50 per cent of his time is
this country and half in England.
That has brought about a special hobby
showing Americans the best and most of Britain
an return trips to his native country. Touring
London buildings with Americans and seeing
their reactions always "sheds new qualities in
something utterly familiar."
Besides this hobby," Horsbrugh's interests
cover a wide field. Travel and its consequences
rate very high.
- 'I'm interested in the history of every place
I've been." be says.
A visitor will find more than a couple books
on the history of Nebraska and Lincoln in his
Architectural Hall office.
In a different aspect of design, be is inter
ested in women's styles. But Horsbrugh is
Highly interested in lunar and interplanetary
discov ery and exploration, he is a member of
the British Interplanetary Society. And besides
spaces ships, the ocean-going type also are
objects of interest. Among the many groups to
which he belongs are the Institute of Landscape
Architects; The Town Planning Institute and the
Royal Institute of British Architects, both of
which be is an associate; and is an Honours
Diplomatist of the Architectural Assn.
But for Horsbrugh, there probably are more
honors coming. As a Harvard associate once
said of him, "I know no other man with his
greatest challenges still ia frost of him."
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