For the whole of what might be called the ‘short’ Twentieth Century, from the aftermath of the Great War to the eve of the Third Millennium, the finest architects and designers in Britain applied their minds, through the medium of the Royal Fine Art Commission, to improving the quality of the built environment. From Edwin Lutyens, Henry Moore and John Piper to Elisabeth Frink, Hugh Casson and Nikolaus Pevsner, those who contributed form a roll-call of our greatest practitioners and critics. Together they put in hour after unglamorous hour analysing the design of buildings, street furniture, roads and bridges, not in expectation of reward but out of conviction that ordinary men and women who encountered these designs in their daily lives deserved the best. It is a remarkable story of civic duty performed freely in the public interest, against the background of high politics, difficult personalities and the physical disruption wrought by wars, the motor car and advances in technology. The Commission’s intervention was decisive in giving us some of our modern icons – the red telephone box, Coventry Cathedral and Bankside Power Station, now Tate Modern – but much of its work lay in painstaking graft that was under-appreciated in its time. This volume, making extensive use of Government papers, puts that work in its historical perspective and pays due tribute to the people who made it possible.