I was saddened to hear of Colin’s passing last night. I have very fond memories of working with him and John Pardey in my final degree year at Portsmouth School of Architecture in 2001. There’s a fantastic image of the two of them together over at Building Magazine, although I’m unable to find a larger copy of it. I really enjoyed both of their contributions and it was my most successful time at the University. He was a great tutor and professor and I loved his insight and wisdom, his comments were often leftfield but always made you reconsider what you were working on. He was a larger than life character and a real presence in the school that was well balanced by Wendy Potts the then Head. He made a massive contribution to the school and he, and the building, were the reasons I initially chose Portsmouth.
I will always remember his effusive introductions to guest lecturers who came down to speak, usually on a train from London. The names he managed to bring down were incredible and he always described their work in such a wonderful way that the speaker was almost dumbstruck, they then had the task of trying to live up to it with their presentation they had brought. I will also always remember his towering presence and large handshake that was intimidating at first but he was always interested in what I had been doing and had advice for my project and also what I should be doing with my career. And who could forget his blue Williams Renault Cleo with the gold alloy wheels! He would arrive in this pimped up sports car which was completely incongruous for his status as Professor, but if you love fast cars then why not.
John wrote a thoughtful and touching obituary in the AJ which is well worth reading. There’s also some familiar names commenting on a BD article including Wendy who had this to say:
Colin and I became friends when we worked together at the University of Portsmouth from 1993 to 2006. I was a young unknown female Head of School and he became a loyal and supportive Professor of Design. He designed us a very special school in which to teach Architecture and together with my late husband, Jay Potts, we worked together to create new ‘shapes’ of architectural education that would enhance the teaching of Architecture in a climate of economic change. (What is new?)
The special thing that Colin contributed was optimism, fun and happiness. He made a special contribution to architectural education, partly by a building but also because he listened and responded with great thought to every (sometimes crazy) opinion a student put forward. He could transport himself to when he was their age and would treat any opinion with respect. It takes a humble and great man to do that. I know all students at Portsmouth School of Architecture will always carry that with them, as will I and my family. We will all miss his loyalty, support and passion.
He was also a successful cricketer back in the 50s and according to the Wikipedia page also had some success with a brief acting career. His work at Hampshire County Council Architects was legendary and was doing fantastic schools work before it was fashionable. I’d love to go back and revisit some of his work in the context of more modern school design. I’ve no doubt it’s stood the test of time.
And here’s a final quote from Colin himself in 1985.
Architects are the rightful custodians of the public estate because they have the capacity to introduce joy, imagination and wit into our environments.
I think that sums it up quite nicely. Rest in peace Colin.