David John Whitehead, 1961 – 2018

Generous mentor who covered the whole scope of design and construction, working for some of the best-known practices on many award winning schemes

David Whitehead’s architectural career was distinguished by his work with some of the best known London practices over the last three decades, as well as the output of his own practice for 11 years.

He was a fully rounded architect with talents covering the whole scope of architectural design and construction, playing a key role in a range of great projects, mostly award winners. His historical knowledge is revealed in his 2010 book, ‘London, The Architecture Guide’, co-authored with structural engineer Henning Klattenhoff, a major work covering 500 buildings.

He was dedicated to architecture, with exceptional skill in the delivery of projects, working tirelessly to refine construction details, converting architectural visions into buildable reality. He was a prolific draughtsman and drew beautifully. Sharing his time and knowledge generously, he was a mentor to many younger architects.  

Born in Sheffield, he was ever a Yorkshire man with a wry northern wit and was a lifelong supporter of Sheffield United FC. He believed in the moral purpose of architecture and shared his opinions bluntly and honestly.

After studying at Liverpool Polytechnic his admiration of pure modernism took him to Powell and Moya, to work on Great Ormond Street Hospital. Then at Greenhill Jenner he worked on the Brixton Barrier Block and community based projects. With MacCormac Jamieson Prichard (MJP) projects included the Cable and Wireless College and Lancaster University Library.  

Among the projects he completed in his own practice was the Poppintree Community Centre in Ballymun, Dublin, part of a major regeneration project.

In latter years he worked with Dixon Jones, with Muma on Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery and Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge, and with Four Four Six Six Architects on various residential projects.

David Whitehead advised on many buildings including Storey’s Field, designed by MUMA
David Whitehead advised on many buildings including Storey’s Field, designed by MUMA Credit: Alan Williams

David was a very particular kind of architect, someone who could be completely relied upon at crucial points in a working drawing programme, that moment where competence and imagination come to the fore

A few words don’t do justice to his career and achievements but most importantly he was a devoted son, brother, uncle and friend of many, who greatly enjoyed his bonhomie and will be saddened by his early parting. David died much too young after a period of illness. Below are appreciations from some he worked with in chronological order.

‘David’s drawings were exquisite, his design work inventive and uncompromising. Most memorable of all though was the caustic humour which he maintained throughout his life‘ – Peter Baynes, ex Powell and Moya

‘David was a talented and knowledgeable architect who dedicated his life to delivering great buildings and nurturing many friends with kindness and his renowned wit‘ – Glaspole Graham, ex Greenhill Jenner

‘David was a real architect, able to evolve an idea into built form. His tenacity and rigour were applied across the scale from one-off houses, to colleges, campus plans and urban design. David was a pleasure to work with, his wry humour and colourful waistcoats are sadly missed‘ – David Prichard, ex MacCormac Jamieson Prichard

‘Add David’s generosity to his exacting design sense and technical rigor and you had a complete architect. I’m lucky to have known David for nearly 30 years, at times as colleague or client rep, but always as a friend‘ – Ali Grehan, Dublin City Architect

‘David was a very particular kind of architect, someone who could be completely relied upon at crucial points in a working drawing programme, that moment where competence and imagination come to the fore.  He was also an engaging character whose presence enlivened the atmosphere in the office‘ – Jeremy Dixon, Dixon Jones

‘It was always a joy to be in David’s company - he was kind, intelligent with an affiliative, dry sense of humour befitting a true Yorkshireman‘ – Simon Usher, MUMA

‘David was both unique and inspirational. For all his many eccentricities, he was a kind, loyal, funny, and highly knowledgeable man, who was a fantastic mentor and truly young at heart‘ – Daniel Welham, Four Four Six Six Architects.