‘Natural architect’, Stirling contender and promoter of architecture for the public good whose self-belief and openness to ideas saw an early to rise to sustained prominence
Gareth Hoskins OBE RSA was an outstanding architect and a tireless ambassador for design and its power to improve our lives. He died on 10 January following a heart attack while at a fencing match, himself an accomplished fencer.
Hoskins was born in 1967 in Edinburgh. His father was an actuary and his mother a practitioner of flower arrangement. He trained at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, working his year out with Trevor Dannatt who remembers him as a ‘natural architect’.
His final two years at the Mac under Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein brought rich opportunities: six months in Florence under the Erasmus Exchange Programme working at a large urban scale followed by a final year project for the Florence station, which won the City of Glasgow Silver Medal and the RSA architecture award; and then working on an installation at the Mac with Ted Cullinan as part of ‘Glasgow European Capital of Culture 1990’. After helping to build the Mac pavilion for the 1991 Venice Biennale, Gareth joined us at Penoyre & Prasad in 1992. He made an important contribution to a number of our key early health, community and arts projects.
Hoskins had an intuitive architectural intelligence rather than a theoretical one, a sixth sense about shape, use and materials that few have. He was a consummate synthesiser of ideas and methods, assimilated through a passion for, and curiosity about, architecture
Hoskins had an intuitive architectural intelligence rather than a theoretical one, a sixth sense about shape, use and materials that few have. He was a consummate synthesiser of ideas and methods, assimilated through a passion for, and curiosity about, architecture. His influences included the lyrical modernism exemplified by Alvar Aalto, and a formally more abstract version of the humane and layered architecture of Ted Cullinan’s work, with its roots in Arts & Crafts. He also shared the contemporary fascination with plan and procession, mixing conceptions of building and city; and that enabled him to produce some fine master plans.
In 1998 he returned to Glasgow to set up Gareth Hoskins Architects (GHA) in Glasgow, and within a year had five people working on three projects won through competition. One was the Lighthouse Mackintosh Gallery, which Deyan Sudjic (director of Glasgow: UK City of Architecture & Design 1999) described as ‘probably the worst possible burden to expect a Glasgow educated architect to tackle’, adding that ‘Hoskins emerged unscarred’. He was named Young Architect of the Year in 2000.
Hoskins’ consummate networking and communication skills and the growing reputation of the practice soon brought forth several opportunities to compete for steadily larger and more high profile projects. GHA won many of these competitions in no small part through great clarity of thinking and succinct diagrammatic presentations of spatial ideas. Particularly notable among many well received completed projects were the Bridge Arts Centre, Easterhouse, and the Mareel arts centre in Shetland, both of which reached the Stirling Prize ‘mid-list’. In 2003 GHA won the international competition for the £47 million redevelopment of the National Museum of Scotland, which was completed in 2011 and won the Doolan award for the best building in Scotland. Some smaller projects attracted equal attention: the Architecture for All gallery at the V&A (2004) in London and the first ever Scottish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2008. There was controversy too through his work for Donald Trump’s huge golf resort on the beautiful and ecologically sensitive coast north of Aberdeen, though he turned down the invitation to design the clubhouse in a pastiche style. This and the current controversy over the GHA proposals for the 1829 Royal High School on Calton Hill on Edinburgh speak as much of an innocent faith in architecture as of self-belief.
Coincidentally with Scottish devolution, Hoskins engaged in the promotion of architecture as a public good. He became a board member of Architecture & Design Scotland at its inception and regularly chaired its design review panels. He was the Scottish government’s National Healthcare Design Champion from 2006 to 2010.
Members of the practice, like his clients, speak of his warmth, persuasiveness, determination, his ability to listen and high standards. Gareth Hoskins had a rare combination of great ability and firm conviction about his own views, together with a genuine openness to others’ ideas to synthesise into a greater whole.