Award-winning charismatic architect known for his personalised home designs, community involvement and delight in taking his pet rabbit to work
I first met George Tsiantar, who has died unexpectedly at his home in Hale near Altrincham in Cheshire, in the union bar at the Manchester School of Architecture in September 1977. A close friend ever since, I watched him become one of the most sought after architects creating homes for individual clients.
George was always a different type of student, taking his pet rabbit to work during his first year out at Michael Hyde Architects. Born into a culturally rich and diverse family with a father from Greece and a French mother born in Vietnam, George’s design philosophy drew from the many countries he had travelled to and his resultant eclectic style was not always well received by his tutors.
Undeterred, he lapped up his second year out experiences at Leach Rhodes and Walker and David Dewhirst Architects in Manchester before qualifying in 1984. In 1986, George met John Dempsey; an inspiration builder of dream homes. Dempsey was a mentor to George, encouraging him to work from an office on site; to understand every inch of the new builds, to design plasterwork friezes, room bars, bespoke ironmongery and spindles, ‘kissing gates’, stained glass windows and furniture, applying creative design to every detail of building and fitout.
Following a spell as director at The Building a Theme Company, he co-founded Tsiantar Architects with his wife Suzanne over 30 years ago, designing all manner of projects both commercial and residential. These ranged from hotels to schools, food courts to cruise ships, theme parks to restaurants – many overseas in the US, South Africa , Spain, Germany, Portugal and France.
Over the last 20 years, George focussed on creating bespoke homes for clients that epitomise their individual personalities and influences as well as working alongside skilled, small developers to provide homes for the open market. With his small and long-serving dedicated team, Tsiantar Architects became one of the most sought-after and respected residential architects in Cheshire, with the practice most recently winning the LABC Award for Best Individual House in 2020, Best Practice at the Northern Design Awards in 2019, Best Boutique Architect’s Practice 2018, both finalist and regional winner at the Building Excellence Awards 2017, and many before that.
In recent years George returned to Manchester School of Architecture as a part time lecturer, enthralling students with his own life stories and personal experiences setting up and managing a small and successful’ practice. While extremely charismatic, part of his charm was his understated and self-effacing, self-deprecating style, which endeared him to everyone. He did play up to his nickname of ‘the housewife’s choice’.
For 30 years George was a governor at St Vincent’s primary school, with a passion for improving and extending the school buildings in a cost effective and spatially clever manner. His dream was to design and oversee the building of a new school, with enough renewables to more than match the demands of the school and to sell electricity back to the grid. The school is designed, just for fun at home, waiting for the commission.
His latest plan was in the development of a breathable double-glazed unit, no gas, no limit on size or altitude, conditions and guaranteed for life, one that has been in as prototypes for three years and the patent is pending.
George also helped and advised on the St Vincent’s Church finance committee for many years and was rightly proud that English Heritage’s report to list the building remarked on how well it was maintained and sensitively decorated, giving the impression of a well-loved space in which a community can gather to worship God.
George’s other passions included rugby, skiing, anything French, Greek or Italian, especially the architecture and the food, and most of all his family and friends. He cherished them as much as he was loved in return.
George is survived by his wife Suzanne who carries on leading the work of the team at Tsiantar Architects, alongside Drew Farren and Tom Bedford, Lee Pollitt, Sam Milne. He lives on in his sons Christian, Jacques and Thomas, who is also training as an architect.