skip to content

Department of Architecture


It was with great sadness and real shock that we learnt of the death last week of Elain Harwood. Elain was a tireless advocate for twentieth-century architecture. Her career with English Heritage and later Historic England was largely devoted to identifying, researching, publishing and protecting the best of modern architecture in England. She was also an active member of the Twentieth Century Society, co-editing many issues of its journal and leading – on foot or on a bicycle – countless study tours and visits.

Elain was a major contributor to the MSt in Building History at Cambridge from its very first year. Drawing on a wide circle of academic and professional colleagues, but always contributing the greatest share of the teaching herself, she created Twentieth Century and Post-War programmes to inspire even the most reluctant modernists. The breadth and depth of Elain’s knowledge invariably impressed. She had travelled nearly everywhere, had an enormous personal acquaintance with architects, architectural historians and campaigners, and had played a leading part in the protection of countless buildings, including the 1957-9 extension to our own Faculty building at Scroope Terrace. She was a vibrant presence, whether in the classroom or visiting buildings; she was generous with her knowledge, and always encouraging to those taking their first steps in the field. Twentieth-century architecture will feel emptier without her.