Obituary: George Finch, (1930 - 2013)

Passionate socialist whose work at London County Council produced famous buildings for ordinary people

George Finch
George Finch

George Finch was a passionate socialist and this informed his social housing, civic buildings and environmental designs. He was proud to make homes for everyday people, insisting on the highest building standards. So he was perfectly suited to London County Council, where Peter Aldington remembers that ‘as a greenhorn straight out of architecture school, meeting George at the LCC and watching the way he worked and cared about the people who would inhabit his buildings was a game-changing experience for me. He managed to make a lot more of the then LCC standards than the rest of us did, especially the ways in which he articulated tower blocks and completed them at the skyline. When George followed Ted Hollamby to Lambeth, it was always inspirational to visit him.’  

Another of Finch’s skills was to use space freed up by tall blocks to build family houses – even in overcrowded Stepney, where he was particularly proud of his Spring Walk scheme. 

‘Tutors warned him of the “wayward and impractical” Architectural Association; Finch took a look, felt its radical yet warm ambience was for him, and secured its one LCC scholarship in 1950’

Finch’s interest in public wellbeing owed much to his background.  Born in Tottenham, the son of a milkman, an early love of making models led him to seek a career in architecture.  Wartime evacuation to Saffron Walden saw him attend a really good grammar school, but his first architectural studies, at North London Polytechnic, disappointed him.  The tutors warned him of the ‘wayward and impractical’ Architectural Association; Finch took a look, felt its radical yet warm ambience was for him, and secured its one LCC scholarship in 1950.  

Finch will be best remembered for two major buildings he designed for Lambeth council.  The first was Lambeth Towers, 10 storeys of flats set over a luncheon club and doctor’s surgery.  Inspired by Moshe Safdie’s published student project, the scheme was built at the same time as Safdie’s Habitat blocks for the Montréal Expo of 1967.  The second was Brixton Recreation Centre, designed in 1971 as the centrepiece of a radical redevelopment on raised walkways that responded to proposals by the Greater London Council to bisect the area with a motorway.  Only the recreation centre survived a reality check in 1973.  Finch was keen that individual sports should not be closed off and created an active atrium linking the swimming pools, gymnasia, climbing wall and other facilities. Recently threatened with closure, in January council leader Lib Peck affirmed that ‘The Rec is a treasured, landmark building and is part of what makes Brixton so special and unique’, promising that it would be retained.

An accomplished musician and thespian, Finch formed a partnership with theatre architect Roderick Ham, and worked on the Derby Playhouse and Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. From 1973 until 1978 Finch was head of design in the school of architecture at Thames Polytechnic (now Greenwich University), and then worked with Bob Giles as Architects Workshop in Docklands. Finch later moved to Hampshire, working as a consultant for the county council before establishing a practice with his partner Kate Macintosh.  In 2005 their adventure playground in Southampton won an RIBA award.  

George Finch is survived by his ex-wife, Brenda, and children Alison, Emma, Sarah, Adam and Jonny; and by Kate and their son Sean. 


IN MEMORIAM

David Joseph Clarke,
Elected 2004, Cromer, Norfolk
Michael Oliver Watson,
Elected 2004, Reigate, Surrey
Basil Norman Atkinson,
Elected 1950, St Albans, Hertfordshire
John Wingate Davidson,
Elected 1950, Robertsbridge, E Sussex
Brian Anthony Rush,
Elected 1950, Stratford-upon-Avon
Leslie Robert Malcolm Tibble,
Elected 1953, Southampton 
Charles Galloway,
Elected 1953, Pinner, Middlesex
Alastair Campbell,
Elected 1954, Crieff, Perthshire
Ronald Albert Cox,
Elected 1954, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
Harold Peter Scher,
Elected 1955, London
Roger Frank Marshall,
Elected 1956, Sevenoaks, Kent
Richard Kellett German,
Elected 1956, Redhill, Surrey
John Hadley Alan Coleman,
Elected 1958, Taunton, Somerset
Geoffrey Marsh,
Elected 1959, Wolverhampton 
Simon Alexander,
Elected 1959, Wembley Park, Middlesex
Archibald Lachlan Brown,
Elected 1964, Glasgow 
Ronald Sheridan,
Elected 1967, Paisley, Renfrewshire
Bernard Joseph Throp,
Elected 1972, Crawley, West Sussex
Granville William Partridge,
Elected 1989, Redhill 
Robert Andrew Bowcock,
Elected 1981, Twickenham, Middx 
Antony William Morgan,
Elected 1988, London
Horace George Clinch,
Elected 1942, Eastbourne, E Sussex
Brian James Moxham,
Elected 1947, Skipton, North Yorkshire
Michael Mountford Pigott,
Elected 1951, Cheltenham, Glos
Laurence Jules Perlston,
Elected 1949, London
Ian Alexander Campbell,
Elected 1945, Troon, Ayrshire


To inform the RIBA of the death of a member, please email membership.services@riba.org with details of next of kin