Ray Moxley 1923 – 2014

Fighter for private practitioners, and an imaginative and forceful construction manager whose ‘rapid building’ system won him the Chelsea Harbour and Excel schemes

After war service as a captain in the 81st West African Division, Ray Moxley trained at the Oxford School of Architecture where he met his future wife Jacqui. He served three years in local government architect’s departments, before a legacy in 1953 enabled him to leave, start his practice and buy a plot of land just outside Bristol. On this he parked a caravan in which he, his wife and their first child lived while he built a house for them on the site, carrying out every trade himself. 

Moxley then became the editor of Mitchell’s Building Construction, writing the first volume. It was not his only first, in 1964 he built Bristol’s joint-first high rise block, and a year later he joined Mike Jenner to form Moxley, Jenner and Partners. After this the workload grew quickly, eventually requiring the appointment of further partners – one of whom, Ann Scampton, he was to marry after the collapse of his first marriage. When a few years later it became clear that a presence in London was necessary, it was decided that he would open and run the practice’s office there while Jenner would continue to look after the Bristol and Cardiff offices. 

'Rapid building' was based on the principle that the loss of the developer’s income for every week of delay is very large, while the additional costs involved in providing a very fast drawing and negotiation programme are insignificant

As a private practitioner Moxley found himself caught up in the concern over the constant growth of local government architects’ departments in the 1960s and 70s. Architects were becoming increasingly worried about these departments, which employed over half the profession – although a study revealed that the overwhelming number of buildings given awards or illustrated in magazines at that time were designed by private practitioners. Moxley tirelessly lobbied MPs about this, and founded the Association of Consulting Architects to fight for private practice. More than any other individual he was responsible for halting, and eventually reversing the trend. 

His exceptional drive and determination made him a superlative construction manager. He developed a method he called rapid building, based on the principle that the loss of the developer’s income for every week of delay is very large, while the additional costs involved in providing a very fast drawing and negotiation programme are insignificant. His success in this field brought in many commissions. The most notable example is Chelsea Harbour, on a huge site adjacent to Lots Road Power Station in south London, consisting of unused railway sidings and a filled-in coal harbour and its lock to the Thames. Working with Chamberlin, Powell, Bon and Woods, his practice prepared design and production drawings in six months for a huge number of houses, flats, industrial and commercial buildings, 8ha of underground parking and a marina in the excavated harbour. Planning permission was granted at 11pm on 15 April 1986. The pile drivers started at 7am the next day. The largest building, of 20 storeys, was topped out 18 weeks later. His last work was Excel, the International Exhibition Centre, which was completed by his son Michael.

Moxley served for some years on the RIBA Council and became a vice president. Two of his three children became architects, each eventually running their own practice. He died on 11 October 2014 aged 91, survived by his children and his wife Ann.