Ian Davidson 1954-2003
Architecture has lost one of its most influential voices with the untimely death of the founding partner of Lifschutz Davidson, writes Paul Finch
The death of Ian Davidson (left), founder and director of Lifschutz Davidson, has robbed the profession of a good architect and an influential voice on the future of practice and education.
That it should have happened to someone yet to reach 50, and who could have been expected to produce many more buildings during his architectural maturity, makes his death even more untimely.
Educated at Leicester Polytechnic, he became part of that group of young architects who worked on the two great British architectural icons of the 1980s - the Lloyd's of London headquarters, with Richard Rogers Partnership; and the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation HQ in Hong Kong, with Foster and Partners.
Armed with that significant experience, he formed Lifschutz Davidson, with Alex Lifschutz, in 1986.
The practice came into its own with a series of acclaimed and varied projects throughout the 1990s, including a supermarket for Sainsbury's in Coventry; a housing co-op scheme which won RFAC and RIBA Awards; the Royal Victoria Dock Bridge in London's Docklands, another multiple award-winner; and the Piper Building in Fulham, an exemplary apartment conversion that won awards from the DETR and the RIBA.
Perhaps the most significant building from the practice during this period was the Oxo Wharf complex in Lambeth, where a mixeduse regeneration scheme was carried out for Coin Street Community Builders, headed by Iain Tuckett. This included community housing, built to proper urban height and density, workshop and retail units for small business, some start-ups, and two spectacular restaurants looking over the Thames towards the City of London. The project won awards from the RFAC, the RIBA and the Civic Trust. It also resulted in a series of consultancy projects on public realm in the Waterloo area.
Davidson's quiet-mannered but robust effectiveness as an architect was mirrored in the activities he undertook for his profession. His chairmanship of the RIBA Awards Group was a model of tact, diplomacy and fair-mindedness, occasionally in trying circumstances. Not the least of his contributions was to ensure a suitable successor, Eric Parry. Davidson was also one of a rare breed of architects who worked hard both for the RIBA and for the Architects Registration Board, for which he became vice-chairman. He tried very hard to bring about reconciliation between different factions in relation to the structure and implementation of an enhanced architectural education system, including the setting of curricula and the validation of courses. He spoke passionately about the need for constructive compromise rather than entrenched positions, and the two organisations could honour his memory no better than to agree on a way forward.
Davidson was also a CABE enabler, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and the UK representative for the European Commission Advisory Committee on Education and Training in the Field of Architecture (his comment on that cumbersome name can be imagined). He seemed to make time for anyone and anything; my last memory of him is a meeting at CABE where we reviewed the competing candidates for the Fourth Grace site in Liverpool, a city where he spent part of his youth.His characteristically dry wit was deployed to good effect in a constructive but sharp analysis of what was on offer (he concurred with the general view that whether or not you liked the architectural style, the Will Alsop scheme was the pick of the bunch).
He leaves a wife, Lyn, two children, William and Lucy, and his partners and colleagues at Lifschutz Davidson. All will be mourning a death that came much too early.