Roger Winkley (1945-2014)

A professional life devoted to design for learning, bridging the gap between the post war pioneers and the renewal of the education estate under Building Schools for the Future

Roger Winkley, who spent much of his professional life focussed on the education sector, has died at the age of 68. As a partner at Barron and Smith Architects for 25 years until retirement in 2010, he developed the firm’s reputation for innovative school design established by the founding partners.

Roger studied architecture at the University of Bristol and was elected to the RIBA in 1971. After graduation in 1967/1970 he worked for Bristol City architects’ department on the early phases of Bristol Polytechnic and a number of schools including Brimsham Green.  In 1979 he joined the Property Services Agency working on the design of a large MOD campus before transferring to London in 1981 to work on the Museum of Mankind.

In 1983 Roger joined Barron and Smith where he led a new high school design for the children of United States Air Force personnel at Greenham Common, which received a USAFE European Schools First Honour Award. In 1985 Roger entered into partnership with practice partner Jim Cross and the two went on to design and deliver major new school buildings, notably Pate’s Grammar School in Cheltenham.

Following Jim Cross’s retirement, Roger swapped the original cellular office space in Church Row, Hampstead for an open plan studio in Islington, encouraging more open communication and sharing of ideas and where he was better able to pass on his specialist knowledge to his staff.  A particular highlight of that period was the new Williams Studio at Uppingham School, a tangible expression of his lifelong love of music and opera.  He had designed sets for Bristol University Operatic Society and Bristol Intimate Opera (1965-1981) and as a keen trumpet player he had played with Bristol Concert Orchestra and then with Lawyers Music in London.

Under Roger’s leadership, no schools’ ambitions were too small to benefit from the firm’s specialism and he maintained strong relationships with local authority education departments and Diocesan Boards of Education. He embraced the developing grant maintained schools sector and the firm grew confidently, providing an expert design service for nursery, primary and secondary maintained and voluntary aided school clients. His expertise in the preparation of an effective education brief, informed by rigorous curriculum analysis, was a particular strength to schools bidding for capital funds and led to DfE research and several commissions for the London BSF programme Client Design Advisor.

Roger always sought to deliver the best possible learning environments often within severe cost constraints, particularly perhaps in 1999 with completion of a high quality, low cost, primary school in South London in time for the next century, while down the road a more celebrated project had triple the budget.  In the office, his genial personality rejoiced in these triumphs and a trusting encouragement of his staff ensured a harmonious working environment. 

His professional legacy is the modern educational environments of hundreds of schools which continue to make a positive impact on the lives of so many young people, exemplified by the new Bishop Justus CofE School, Bromley, opened by Lord Adonis in 2006.

In a fitting finale, with the practice now part of Norfolk Property Services, Roger and Clare retired to a converted old school house in Norfolk where he continued to offer his expertise, notably to North West London Jewish day School and Michael Sobell Sinai School in Brent.  He died peacefully on 16 June 2014.  He leaves Clare, daughters Alice, Emily and Felicity and four grandchildren.