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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Hidalgo Moya's Clever Children

A passport photograph taken in 1921, before the Moya family returned to England from Pasadena, California. Sophia was then 37, Georgia 10, Jacko one and Hidalgo 57.
For typewriter historians, the legacy of the great inventors is usually no more than the machines they designed, or in some cases the machines their designs influenced. Hidalgo Moya offers a rare chance to look a little further than that.
Moya, who designed the unconventional Moya and early Imperial portables, died in obscurity in Bournemouth, then in Hampshire, in December 1927, aged 63. He left behind a 44-year-old widow, Sophia, a 17-year-old daughter, Georgia Mary Lilian Moya, and a seven-year-old son, John Hidalgo "Jacko" Moya.
Hidalgo Moya had not been just a typewriter and a hot-air balloon inventor, but also a violin maker - there was clearly an artistic streak in his blood. And the creative genes appear to have been passed on.
Earlier passport photos of Hidalgo Moya
In much later life, Georgia (as a bromoilist) and Jacko (as an architect) when on to achieve a certain amount of fame for themselves, but with the recognition of their successes, in fields far from typewriters, their father was never mentioned.
The widow, Sophia Lillian Moya (née Chattaway), died in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire on March 20, 1964, aged 81, leaving probate to son Jacko and her solicitor Howard Tyler. Georgia, born at Aylestone, Leicestershire, on July 3, 1910, went to live with her mother in Leamington Spa towards the end of Sophia's life.
Close to Jacko's home in Kensington, London, in March 1950, Georgia had married a retired Rolls-Royce publicity manager, Myles Procter-Gregg (1896-1961) - Georgia was 39 and Myles 53; it was her first marriage, his second. The couple lived at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, but after Myles died on August 18, 1961, Georgia moved to Leamington Spa to be with Sophia.
As Georgia Procter-Gregg, Moya's daughter became a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and developer of the "Gelabrome process" of photographic art.
Hidalgo Moya's daughter Georgia Procter-Gregg demonstrates her
"Gelabrome process" of art photography.
For the first 50 years or so of her life, Georgia's interest in photography had been confined to taking holiday snaps and pictures of the countryside - in fact photography was just one of many hobbies she enjoyed until the early 1960s.
In Warwickshire she joined the Royal Photographic Society and the Lockheed and Leamington Photographic Society, enrolled as a student for evening classes in photography and devoted every possible minute to her now single hobby.
An introduction to the Bromoil Circle Postal Club (for a description of the bromoil process, see below) followed and in due course Georgia received an invitation to join the Associate Royal Photographic Society Portfolio, the Postal Camera Club, the Zodiac Camera Club and one of the Anglo-American Portfolios. She worked hard to produce her own bromides and bromoils for the many portfolios and open exhibitions she supported. Her first acceptance was a bromoil portrait in the 1964 Royal Photographic Society International, but she was soon sending to exhibitions all over the world and achieving a high acceptance rate. She gained her Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society in 1965 and Fellowship in 1968, with panels of bromoils in each case. 
There followed a hectic period of lecturing, demonstrating and serving on judging panels all over Britain. Unfortunately, a retinal haemorrhage brought this to a sudden stop and forced Georgia to give up most of her portfolio work, as darkroom activities became difficult.
Pond Art by Georgia Procter-Gregg
The development of Georgia Procter-Gregg's Gelabrome process is considered a masterpiece of experimentation in itself. The Royal Photographic Society has a number of Georgia's bromoils in its permanent collection.
Georgia died in Leamington Spa in February 1991, aged 80.
The bromoil process is an early photographic process that was very popular with the Pictorialists during the first half of the 20th century. The soft, paint-like qualities of the prints are typical for this genre, and led to some art photographers using the process again in the latter part of the century.  The bromoil process is based on the oil print, the origins of which go back to the mid-19th century. A drawback of oil prints was that the gelatin used was too slow to permit an enlarger to be used, so that negatives had to be the same dimensions as the positives. After G.E.H. Rawlins published a 1904 article on the oil print process, E.J. Wall in 1907 described theoretically how it should be possible to use a smaller negative in an enlarger to produce a silver bromide positive, which could then be bleached and hardened, to be inked afterwards as in the oil process. C Welborne Piper then executed this theory in practise, and so the bromoil process was born.
John Hidalgo "Jacko" Moya was born in Los Gatos, south of San Jose, California, on May 5, 1920, where his father Hidalgo the typewriter inventor had gone in the hope of recovering his health after a series of debilitating strokes suffered in England. In 1921 Hidalgo and his wife Sophia returned to England with Georgia and Jacko.
His advanced education unhindered by the death of his father, Jacko attended Oundle School and the Royal West of England College of Art in Bristol, entering the Architectural Association School of Architecture in 1938. Here he met Philip Powell (1921–2003), who entered the school in the autumn of 1939. Moya was already recognised by his tutors as a talented designer and adept draughtsman, but his perceived lack of application was responsible for his relegation to Unit 2, a small group of new students including Powell and (the unrelated) Geoffry Powell.
Moya and Philip Powell, who were both judged unfit for war service, became friends and collaborated on student projects. On graduating from the AA, Powell and, subsequently, Moya went to work for Frederick Gibberd, who had been one of their tutors.
During World War II the Architectural Association School of Architecture had moved to Barnet and at a time when great buildings were being destroyed rather than created, Moya and other students of an idealistic generation planned their Utopian visions of a post-war world. But the buildings actually constructed in the post-war years were not very exciting; the need was great and quantity was an overriding concern. 
Work in progress on the Churchill Gardens Estate in Pimlico, south-west London, April 4, 1955. On the left is Sheraton House and on the right, Chippendale House.
Part of the Abercrombie Plan.
In May 1946 the competition entry of Powell and Moya (designed in collaboration with Powell's elder brother Michael) for a major housing development in Pimlico was placed first out of 64 entries. Following the advice of the competition judge, Stanley Ramsey, Westminster council appointed the hastily formed partnership of Powell and Moya to design the first phase of what became Churchill GardensConstructed in phases between 1947 and 1962, the development was heroic in scale and clearly influenced by inter-war mass housing in Germany and the Netherlands. Environmentally and socially, Churchill Gardens has been widely reckoned to be one of the most successful of large-scale post-war social housing schemes.
Churchill Gardens comprised 1800 dwellings, 30 shops, pubs, a nursery school and a library. It was an entire city quarter stretching 600 yards along the north bank of the Thames.
The new buildings were mostly nine-storey blocks, set at right angles to the Thames to give views for those set far back from the river. These blocks were constructed of concrete and faced in yellow sand-lime bricks, a nod in the direction of the traditional London yellow bricks. This use of brick was something of a surprise, for architects within the modern movement at the time were expected to use materials with less of a handicraft imagery. But Powell and Moya had seen the poor weathering of the pre-war modern buildings in London, and chose a material that would weather well. For the low blocks, which were easier to redecorate, they used the white painted render of the pre-war modern buildings, and the periodic repainting of these has ensured that the development has been continually freshened up.
It was not just in its architectural excellence that Churchill Gardens was a breakthrough. It was technically inventive too, with its "district" heating, utilising waste heat from Battersea Power Station across the river. Hot water came under the Thames and was stored in a 50-foot-high glass-clad tower and distributed from a pump house designed as a delicious jeu d'esprit, a glass box modelled on the glass and steel house Philip Johnson had just completed in Connecticut.
As architects in their mid-20s, bringing into a grim world of shortages some real architectural quality, this massive venture established the reputation of Powell and Moya and for nearly 50 years they continued to produce buildings of warmth and humanity, usually with an underlying social purpose. Other architects were more charismatic and more intellectually rigorous, but few could match the felicity of Powell and Moya's designs. Success at a very young age saved them from the necessity of having to shock which dogged so many of their contemporaries. They found their direction during the 1940s, before the influence of English Brutalism or of American repetitiveness, enabling them to avoid some of the least popular facets of modern architecture.

Workmen finishing the framework of Jacko Moya's Skylon,
a 200-foot tall steel and aluminium tower.
At a time when system building reigned supreme they showed that conventional construction could be cheaper. Other housing commissions followed, including the development, combining multi-storey flats and two-storey houses, at Lamble Street, Kentish Town (completed in 1954).
Powell and Moya generally collaborated closely on every project, rather than running their own design teams, but the "vertical feature" designed for the 1951 Festival of Britain was largely the work of Moya. The Skylon, destroyed after the South Bank exhibition closed, was an optimistic symbol of renewal and it brought Moya fame. It was seen as a bit of fun and nonsense after years of utilitarian building. It may have been nonsense, but it was a very innovative structure and, working with the engineer Felix Samuely, it was all put together in a very short time. 
Powell and Moya's partnership thrived on the basis of public commissions - mainly housing, hospitals and educational buildings. During the 1960s it employed more than 50 people, though the natural inclination of both partners was to run a small operation. The Princess Margaret Hospital (as it became) at Swindon was commissioned in 1951, though it was completed only in 1960. Early Powell and Moya hospitals such as this are straight, elegant and spare. Later ones, such as Maidstone District General (1983) are "user-friendly", with pitched roofs, welcoming entrance and garden courts. Mayfield School, Putney, constructed between 1952 and 1956, was another outstanding design.
The exterior of the Chichester Festival Theatre, showing its hexagonal design and reinforced-concrete construction.
The theatre was founded by local ophthalmic optician Leslie Evershed-Martin.
It was the first theatre in Britain to have an open stage with the audience seated on three sides.
The 1360-seat Festival Theatre at Chichester, opened in 1962 under the directorship of Laurence Olivier, pioneered the taste for theatre-in-the-round. Occupying an open site on the edge of the cathedral city, the Festival Theatre is a dynamic and uncompromising expression of modern architectural and cultural values. It was the first professional theatre built in England with an open stage.
Powell and Moya's instincts were radical, but there were contexts in which they had to be tempered. In 1957 the practice was commissioned to design a new residential 30-bedroom building for Brasenose College, Oxford - the site was a backyard filled with decomposing lavatories and baths. Completed in 1961, the scheme was a prime example of the "contextual modernism" which Powell and Moya pioneered. Faced in traditional materials, though with no stylistic concessions to the past, the building made ingenious use of scarce daylight and views out and was the first of a number of the firm's additions to Oxford and Cambridge colleges.  They used real stone and real lead to give a modern architecture that could hold its own in a traditional setting. This was followed by the Cripps Building for St John's College, Cambridge, (1967) where a straight modern plan is bent and staggered to form courtyards and to give intricacy and intimacy to the spaces around it. It was the largest (200 rooms) of the Oxbridge schemes and finished to a particularly lavish standard. Blue Boar Quad at Christ Church, Oxford, (1965-68) placed rooms underground to retain the flavour of the spaces and includes one of the most beautiful art galleries in Britain. The new Wolfson College, Oxford (1974), and new buildings for Queens' College, Cambridge (1976-78) followed. They were on more open sites, and the designs gained in clarity but lacked the contrast of old and new that was such a pleasure in the earlier schemes.
Moya's erratic habits and sometimes taciturn manner vexed some clients (and colleagues - he was apt to spend several days working on a single detail) but his intensity and powers of imagination struck a chord with many academics. Moya was appointed CBE in 1966. Philip Powell was the front man and received a knighthood, but it was a practice shared and the pair jointly won architecture's highest award, the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal, in 1974.
The British pavilion which the firm designed for the 1970 Osaka Expo - the scheme was largely Moya's work - hinted at the impending fashion for high tech, though Powell and Moya's work of the 70s and 80s, mostly in the health and education sectors, tended to be pragmatic rather than experimental. The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, opened in 1986, presented a bold face to Westminster Abbey but attracted little comment, even from Prince Charles. An unashamedly modern building, it sits in this most historic site with dignity and harmony. 
On October 23, 1947, Moya married Janiffer Innes Mary Hall, a student of architecture. The marriage produced two sons and a daughter. Moya married for a second time on April 28, 1988. His wife was Jean Macarthur Conder, a gilder and restorer. Moya retired from practice in 1990 and the partnership with Powell was formally dissolved when the latter retired a year later. In retirement at Rye, Sussex, Moya pursued an interest in painting.
He died of prostate cancer in the Conquest Hospital (a hospital he had helped design), St Leonards, Sussex, on August 3, 1994. aged 74. He was survived by his children from his first marriage, and five grandchildren.






3 comments:

Richard P said...

Another impressive piece of research. It's nice to see that the constructive and creative talent of Hidalgo Moya passed on to his children.

Lizzie Everard said...

Hi, fascinating research and what a lovely write up of the family. I'm curious to know where you found all the photographs – only recently discovered my family are very closely related and we are always delighted to find out anything we can. Thanks, Lizzie

Julia said...

Extremely interesting. The architectural firm of Powell & Moya designed a house in Leamington Spa in 1956, and the client's name was listed as "Mrs Moya". A house for Sophia, and later Georgia, too? I have the impression it has been demolished. As I live close to Leamington I would like to identify where it was and what it looked like, so I am hunting for the location and a photo. Thanks, Julia