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KEITH MURRAY 1929-2005


Keith Murray, who has died at the age of 76, was one half of Maguire and Murray and a pioneer in post-war church design.

The partnership's first major building, St Paul's church at Bow Common, became internationally known, even before it was finished in 1960.

Now Grade II* listed, the project was followed by a stream of other church work and a range of commissions in other areas, such as education and student housing.

Murray studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts (since absorbed into St Martins College, London) and began his professional life as a designer for Watts and Co - a firm of church craftsmen.

By 1954 he had risen to the position of managing director and had created, among other things, ceremonial capes for both St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. He also designed a freestanding altar for the Royal Foundation of St Katherine in east London, which was spotted by Father Gresham Kirkby from nearby St Paul's.

An enthusiast for modern architecture, Kirkby asked Murray to draw up plans to replace his church, which had been bombed during the war.

By this time Murray was already collaborating with Bob Maguire, who he had first met in 1952. The duo founded the New Churches Research Group and decided to officially set up in partnership nine years after meeting in a converted laundry building. It was an inspiring team and was, according to the AJ (20.01.71), an 'obviously happy partnership'.

After the success of St Paul's, the pair went onto design the much acclaimed St Matthew's in Perry Beeches, Birmingham, and the Church of the Ascension in Hulme, Manchester, both now listed Grade II.

This was followed by the Church of the Resurrection at St Mary's Abbey in West Malling, Kent - a remarkable modern intervention in a setting of great antiquity.

The partnership also turned its hand to educational buildings, including those at Trinity College in Oxford and St Paul's with St Luke's Primary School, again at Bow Common.

In 1979 the practice was appointed Surveyor of the Fabric of Lincoln Cathedral, and for the next 10 years Murray regularly visited the city.

In the meantime the practice won a competition to design a children's day care centre in Berlin which became part of the 1981 International Building Exhibition. Other projects in Berlin came to an abrupt end when the Wall came down.

In the late '80s, the duo finally split, and in his later years Murray moved to Dorset to live with his daughter, Esther, and her three children.

Today Maguire and Murray's buildings maintain a calm and dignified presence, lasting beyond short-term trends and fashion. As they said themselves, the pair were far more interested in 'building for people, [than] in producing 'Architecture' primarily'.

Murray died while out walking his dog in the village of Morecombelake in Dorset on 6 October.

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