Living Tradition: The Architecture and Urbanism of Hugh Petter

Living Tradition: The Architecture and Urbanism of Hugh Petter

Living Tradition: The Architecture and Urbanism of Hugh Petter celebrates the work of one of the most vigorous and innovative traditional architects of his generation. Hugh Petter combines extraordinary breadth of interest across the spectrum of traditional design and a love of detail, materials and craft. His unusually broad career embraces practice in architecture and urban design, teaching, writing, and significant charitable roles to encourage the next generation of master craftsmen and traditional designers. His pioneering work as master-planner for the Duchy of Cornwall at Nansledan, Newquay, is regularly cited by the UK Government and others as an exemplar of an integrated, mixed-use, walkable community that reflects local identity, responds to local needs and encourages a more sustainable lifestyle. The development is proving so popular that it has grown ten-fold since first conceived.

This book will showcase recent highlights from Hugh’s award-winning portfolio, including significant new country houses; major alterations and refurbishment of historic buildings; a
significant new building for Trinity College in Oxford; and commercial development at all scales with landed estates across the UK.

Publication date 5th October 2023
Available to purchase from Triglyph Books

Written by Clive Aslet.  Photography by Dylan Thomas
Published by Triglyph Books


“At the end of the book, there is a Catalogue Raisonné of Petter’s projects, with small colour photographs of some of them. To me, his most successful interventions are his tactful extensions to existing buildings and his skillful unpicking of insensitive botches.” – The Critic, 17 July 2023, written by James Stevens Curl, an architectural historian, architect, and author. Read the full review on The Critic website.

“Everything about Hugh Petter is a paradox: a comprehensive school boy who designs to the manor born; a bridge-builder who challenges the orthodox; a conservative who keeps being radical; and a self-effacing man who has master-planned the most influential British urban extension of the last 15 years…Living Tradition explains why.” – Building Design, 12 September 2023, written by Nicholas Boys Smith, founding director of Create Streets
and chair of the UK Government’s Office for Place. Read the full review on the Building Design website.

“We are given delicious insight into a series of elegant and handsomely detailed new country houses…all designed with a full consciousness of contemporary lifestyle and technology…This book is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary traditionalism in architecture, and the continuity of the country-house story.” – House and Garden magazine, November 2023, written by Jeremy Musson, an architectural historian, writer, consultant,
and lecturer, ex-architectural editor of Country Life.

“Living Tradition is a study of Petter’s specific interest and influences… It is extremely rare to find a self-effacing architect; they are usually egocentric; but Petter is one of a rare breed.” – The Georgian, 25th January 2024, written by Tim Mowl, Emeritus Professor in the History of Architecture & Designed Landscapes at the University of Bristol, a historic buildings consultant and director of AHC Consultants. 


Frank Salmon, LittD, FSA, Architectural historian, Associate Professor of History of Art and Director of the Ax:son Johnson Centre for the Study of Classical Architecture, University of Cambridge.

I well recall my first encounter with Hugh Petter at the British School at Rome in the early 1990s.  As a Rome Scholar in Architecture, he stood out for his untypically intense and well-informed interest in the history of architecture, as well as for his scepticism about the orthodox mantra of British schools of architecture that traditional design could have no place to play in new buildings by the end of the twentieth century.  Time has proved that Hugh was, in fact, in advance of his time, like King Charles III, with whom he subsequently worked extensively.  Far from dying off, traditional approaches have grown in the architecture of the twenty-first century on the back of many people’s enduring attachment to what is formally familiar, socially well-functioning and environmentally sustainable.  This beautifully illustrated book chronicles Hugh’s career over the past three decades, detailing the design problems with which he has been presented and the elegant solutions he has invariably found from within the wide range of possibilities traditional architecture offers. It demonstrates how the visionary from Rome has become one of the most prolific and successful architects of modern Britain.

Dr Simon Thurley, historian, archaeologist and heritage expert

Not every first violin can conduct an orchestra: but Hugh Petter is that rare thing – a classy architect who is also an accomplished urban designer, this book is a tribute to that happy combination.  

 George Ferguson CBE, People & Cities, President Royal Institute of British Architects  2003-05; First Elected Mayor of Bristol (Independent) 2012-16; Fellow of University of Bristol Cabot Institute; HonMA (UoB) HonPhD (UWE) HonAoU HonAIA HonFRIAS Hon Citizen of Seoul

Hugh Petter, as one of the leading UK practitioners of a traditional approach to architecture, has shown himself to be an outstanding and thoughtful designer and masterplanner. With an architectural establishment that has largely spurned traditional building he has had the courage to persist and to prove that traditional architecture will always have relevance. He is capable of spanning the whole gamut of building types and styles and to bring them together to make highly liveable and attractive places. Any architect of whatever taste should be impressed by the sheer variety and quality of Hugh’s commissions, ranging from social housing that is almost impossible to identify as such, to grand buildings for individuals and establishments who wish to build to last. The book ‘Living Tradition’ is a fitting tribute to his work and a feast of architectural photography that establishes Petter’s position as a particularly fine traditional architect.

Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin
Course Leader, MSt in Architecture (Degree Apprenticeship) – ARB Part 2, Institute of Continuing Education

Hugh Petter’s Living Tradition is a delight. The book presents a series of Hugh’s major projects with an emphasis on his new and remodelled houses but also some of his public buildings: all of them have a fresh, lively character to them testifying not only to his talents as an architect but also to Hugh himself and to his qualities as a teacher and a promoter of the very best kind of traditional architecture. Clive Aslet’s text and Dylan Thomas’ immaculate photography make this a volume to treasure.

Breathing new life into a house that has fallen on hard times – whether by mismanagement or by natural disaster – is one of the most important tasks that any architect can undertake. That is true in the case of a major masterpiece, such as Thomas Archer’s Chettle House in Dorset, which Adam Architecture so brilliantly restored a few years ago, as it is with the small and more typical homes of any period that are scattered around the country’s villages. Hugh has transformed many houses such as these to the highest possible standards, giving them many more hundreds of years of life. His urban design projects, such as Nansledan in Cornwall, are now rightfully recognised as a paradigm for future building.

Traditional architecture will only continue to prosper where there are practitioners who can live up to historical standards of design, construction and ornament and at the same time meet modern expectations and contribute something new. This is a way of building that has a has a great deal of life in it yet.

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