Hugh Maxwell Casson studied at Cambridge, where he read architecture, before attending the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, graduating in 1934. He began working the following year with Christopher Nicholson, alongside writing architectural guidebooks and working on articles and illustrations for magazines such as the Architect’s Journal and the Architectural Review. He was appointed Director of Architecture for the Festival of Britain in 1948 and was known for choosing a group of relatively young architects to complete the project. He also completed various projects though the architectural practice he established with Neville Conder, such as the Elephant House at London Zoo, and several buildings for the Cambridge University Arts Faculty. In 1952 he was knighted for his work on the festival. He also served as Provost of the Royal College of Art, as well as being appointed president of the Royal Academy from 1976 to 1984.
A close friend of the Royal Family, Casson designed interiors for the royal yacht Britannia and is credited with teaching Prince Charles how to paint in watercolour, a medium for which he is celebrated through work such as his illustrations in the books Hugh Casson’s Cambridge and Hugh Casson’s Oxford.