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Philip Lancashire, (1944 - 2013)

Barnaby Milburn

Expert who made award-winning designs from redundant industrial buildings, driven by a love of life

Philip lancashire joined our diploma course at the Bartlett in autumn 1966, coming with a degree in architecture from Newcastle, where he had witnessed the wanton demolition of many a fine and useful building. In vacations we did hands-on work to aged stone buildings in the Dordogne using whatever material came to hand – and a good deal of muscle and wine. In a joint diploma project we set out to prove that the Camden Town motorway box was not needed – it did not happen – and that Kentish Town was worth keeping – it is still there. Buckminster Fuller came to wow us Beatle-era students with his high-octane gospel of ‘the above-grade mine’. Philip’s take on this was a bit different. Fired by enthusiasm for the eccentric post-war works of Harold Falkner – which often incorporated components salvaged from war-time bombed out ruins – he developed a craftsman-like appreciation of traditional buildings and their parts, and how they could be sensitively re-used. 

His professional practice experience was at the Louis de Soissons office and coincided with the arrival of Eva Jiricna who warmly recalls how Philip (shirt always untucked) introduced her, in lunch-breaks, to Nash Terraces, the Soane Museum etc, proudly sharing his appreciation of London’s finest architecture. He sometimes withdrew for a while, reappearing with something exquisite he had made – on one occasion, a virginals. His preparation in all things was thorough, be it sailing across the Atlantic or making cassoulet. He was an attentive bee-keeper, taking hives from a friend who had been stung once too often.
Philip’s approach to design flowed from context and he was fascinated with the patina of salvaged material; his new designs are quietly convincing, always appropriate to their setting and sometimes quite hard to distinguish from older traditional buildings. His skill as a craftsman and eye as a designer were, unusually, combined with exceptional business flair and discipline, and enabled him to act effectively as architect/developer on many occasions and with impressive results.
When fully qualified as an architect, Philip became involved in some knotty occupational problems with a little leasehold building full of small businesses – a nightmare inheritance as an investment – but this paved the way for a series of perceptive entrepreneurial moves with his partner Gillian Harwood, which allowed many fledgling design and creative businesses to flourish. The commercial market for serviced offices had not yet materialised and it was through personal conviction and commitment that the pair created work-spaces where cash-strapped enterprises could start up. 

Through consistent re-investment in redundant industrial buildings which appealed to Philip’s discerning eye, a diverse portfolio of properties of character, full of artistic and business activity, was established. Far flung outposts in Lewes and Bridport succeeded that early pioneering project near Covent Garden and the huge Omnibus Workspace in Islington – which has been home to many architecture firms embarking on independent practice. It was recognised in the 1982 London Award.

Well-deserved accolades have been bestowed on many of Philip’s enterprising regeneration developments, notably Tideway Yard in Mortlake (a former power station site won in local authority sponsored competition) which won the Times/RICS Conservation Award 1989, Business in the Community Award and Best Refurbished Waterside Development in the UK in 1990. In common with another distinguished architect, Philip established and ran a Thameside restaurant which is still going after 27 years. His sympathetic adaptation of the former Shoreditch Power station as the headquarters and performance arena for Circus Space earned Philip the distinction of a mention in Pevsner.

In addition to intrepid off-piste skiing from helicopters, Philip was a keen racing sailor and a careful and considerate skipper to those fortunate enough to accompany him on his Mediterranean charters.

The Sussex Heritage Trust citation states ‘Britain needs more people like Philip Lancashire’ in his Heritage Person of the Year Award 2009. A liveryman of the City of London  and member of the Worshipful Company of Architects, his loss will be felt far and wide – and deeply – but his influence in the care and use of buildings will endure.


James Richard Latimer,
Elected 1955, Balerno, Midlothian
Cedric Dermot Morrison,
Elected 1968, Co Down
John Michael Haselhurst,
Elected 1969, Wakefield, W Yorks
Sadrudin Gulamhussein Kassam,
Elected 1971, London
Roger Barrie Morgan,
Elected 1983, Carmarthen, Dyfed
Carl A Muschenheim,
Elected 1987 
Robert Arthur Berryman,
Elected 1991, Shanklin, Isle Of Wight
Keith Norman Denham,
Elected 1963, Southampton

To inform the RIBA of the death of a member, please email with details of next of kin