Lionel March fonds
Part of:
  • Lionel March (archive creator)

Lionel March fonds


circa 1957 - 2017

Level of archival description:
Extent and medium:
  • 2 l.m. of textual records

    5229 photographic materials

    403 drawings (including reprographic copies)

    297 books

    36 serials

    32 ephemera

    26 panels

    14 artefacts

    14 digital media

    5 sketchbooks

    4 digital media

    3 notebooks

    2 models

Scope and content:
The Lionel March fonds, 1957-2017, documents the work and activities of professor, architect, and mathematician Lionel March (1934-2018). The records in this fonds provide evidence of March’s academic and research career, with notable documentation on his work at the Centre for Land Use and Built Form Studies, and his research related to shape grammars, mathematics, and renaissance architecture. Records also represent March’s architectural projects, including the unbuilt Whitehall Masterplan (1964-1965) and the restoration of R.M. Schindler’s James Eads How House (1993-2007). The fonds also documents March’s work as a serial artist, and includes sketches and plans for some of his artworks.

The fonds contains a large number of books from March’s personal and professional library; drawings from several architectural projects, mostly representing The Shape of Cambridge exhibition project (AP208.S1.1962.PR01) and The Secondary Modern School at Cherry Hinton (AP208.S1.1960.PR01); and teaching and research materials such as articles, slides, and toys (AP208.S3 & AP208.S4). Although material in this fonds spans six decades, records were largely produced between the 1960s and 1980s.

It is important to note that while March’s work was influential on computer-aided design and that he chaired Applied Research Cambridge Limited, a computer-aided design company for a number of years, the fonds does not contain any born-digital files and lacks documentation in this area of his career.
Reference number:


Upon transfer to the CCA, it appeared that there was no overarching original order to the records. Materials were grouped, boxed and shipped largely by format. Gathered from labels written on boxes, it appears that items were placed in boxes based on their location in March’s office.

To maintain the original order of the collection, materials were arranged intellectually into five series by the types of activities represented in the content:

Series AP208.S1: Projects
Series AP208.S2: Publications and writings
Series AP208.S3: Academic work
Series AP208.S4: Reference material
Series AP208.S5: Personal papers

Materials were rehoused into acid-free archival containers and folders, according to file format and size of material. This involved some physical arrangement as various formats were scattered across shipping containers.
Biographical notes:
Lionel March, born 26 January 1934 in Hove, England, was an architect, mathematician, and artist. Interested in bringing creativity to mathematics, March was at the forefront of computer-aided design in architecture and his most notable architectural project was his collaboration with fellow architect Leslie Martin on the Whitehall Government Centre project in 1964, where they developed their court-pavilion theory in relation to land-use [1].
Expressing an early interest in mathematics, March wrote an essay in grammar school outlining a new type of algebra. It garnered the attention of mathematician Alan Turing, a codebreaker at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, leading him to write to March personally [2]. From 1953-1955, March completed his service in the Royal Navy as a sub-lieutenant [3]. With Turing personally recommending him to Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge, March began his studies in Mathematics under Dennis Babbage, another Bletchley Park codebreaker [4]. In 1960 March married his first wife Lindsey Miller, an anthropologist [5]. After transferring to architecture a year into his studies at Cambridge, March earned his diploma in 1961[6].
As a student at The University of Cambridge, March was involved in theater and opera; as President of the university’s Opera Group, he designed and built stage sets for plays and operas including the premiere of Stravinsky’s "The Rake’s Progress" at Sadler’s Wells in London [7]. March’s creative endeavors also extended into the visual arts. He took an interest in serial art, an art form centered around the premise of adhering to a strict set of rules that govern and determine the artwork’s composition [8]. In 1961, he put on an exhibition of his artworks titled “Experiments in Serial Art” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London [9]. March continued to make serial art throughout his life, eventually taking a digital approach to the art form [10].

In 1962, he received the Harkness Fellowship of the Commonwealth fund to study at Harvard University and MIT, researching the works of architect Frank Lloyd Wright until 1964 [11].
In 1964, March received an invitation from architect Leslie Martin to assist him in the Whitehall Government Centre project, designing and drafting proposals for new government offices. Although it was never executed, the Whitehall plan was integral to March’s career as it is where he and Martin developed the court and pavilion theory, which sought a solution to high density housing in areas where land was sparse [12]. Seeking to build upon research established in the Whitehall Plan, Martin went on to establish the Centre for Land Use and Built Form Studies, later named the Martin Centre, at Cambridge in 1967 with March as its founding director [13].

March was a strong advocate for computer-aided design in architecture and was at the forefront of using computers to model architectural and building plans. He was founding Chairman of the Board of Applied Research of Cambridge Limited, a computer-aided design company created in 1969 and part of the first wave of the Cambridge phenomenon; where several thousands of tech and bio-tech companies emerged in and around the Cambridge area [14]. With his colleague, architect Philip Steadman, March published "The Geometry of Environment" in 1971, a book discussing the application of geometry and mathematics in relation to architecture and design.
March also taught at various universities throughout England and North America during his career. In 1974, he moved to Ontario, Canada, taking on a position at the University of Waterloo as a professor in the Department of Systems Design [15]. That year, March also became founding editor of the urban planning and analytics journal, “Environment and Planning B” [16]. He remained at his position at the University of Waterloo for two years before returning to England in 1976 to serve as the chair of design at The Open University in Milton Keynes [17].

March received a Doctor of Science for Mathematics and Computational Studies related to architecture and urban planning from the University of Cambridge in 1978 [18]. In 1981, March left The Open University to begin his position as Rector of the Royal College of Art in London. Due to the period of turbulence in which March began his rectorship, he only remained at the Royal College of Art for two years, resigning in 1983 [19].

In 1984, March moved to Los Angeles, California to work at UCLA, where he would remain for the rest of his academic career. He was a professor at the School of Architecture and Urban Design and the School of Arts and Architecture [20]. March’s time at UCLA saw a shift in his research interests towards Renaissance architecture, where he focused greatly on the role of mathematics and proportion. In 1998, he would publish his book The "Architectonics of Humanism," where March discusses the use of symmetry and
proportion in the architectural works of Palladio and Alberti.

While living in California, March purchased R.M. Schindler’s James Eads How House in Silver Lake with his second wife Maureen Mary. Throughout the 1990s, they restored the house to its original condition, hosting groups, schools, and researchers interested in Schindler architecture. In 2004, March retired and moved back to England, living in Stretham with his wife until her passing in 2013. March died in his home in February 2018 [21].

[2, 6, 7, 10, 15, 16, 17, 21]
Earl, Chris. (2018, March 7). Memories of lionel march (1934-2018). Design@Open. http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/design/memories-of-lionel-march-1934-2018/

Grove, M.L.R. (2018, February 21). In memoriam: professor lionel march (1934-2018). University of Cambridge Department of Architecture. https://www.arct.cam.ac.uk/news/in-memoriam- professor-lionel-march-1934-2017

[3, 6, 9, 18, 20]
March, L. J. (1998, July 24). Curriculum vitae. UCLA. http://lmarch.bol.ucla.edu/LMCV.html

March, L. J. (1998, July 24). Biographical note. UCLA. http://lmarch.bol.ucla.edu/LMBIO.html

[1, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 19]
Steadman, P. (2018). Lionel march: 1934-2018. Architectural Research Quarterly, 22(2), 100–103. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1359135518000362

Tate. (n.d.). Serial art. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/s/serial-art
Conditions governing access:
  • Material in this fonds is accessible by appointment in the reading room. Please direct requests to ref@cca.qc.ca.
Conditions governing reproduction:
  • For copyright information or permission to reproduce material from the fonds, please contact the CCA (reproductions@cca.qc.ca).
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer:
  • Gift of the Lionel March Estate
  • Gift of The Lionel March Estate on February 19, 2019.
Custodial history:
  • The archives of Lionel March were kept in his home office and were in the custody of his estate upon his death in 2018. They were transferred to the CCA on June 20, 2019.
Archivist's note:
  • The Lionel March fonds was processed and described by Chloe Belair-Morin from 2022 - 2023. Materials were processed down to the file-level, with the exception of AV materials, which were processed at the item-level.
Credit line:
When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation: Lionel March fonds, Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal. When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.

© Lionel March Estate

Language of material:
  • English

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