Military-style planning means Austin-Smith's legacy lives on
Peter Lord, who joined Mike Austin-Smith to form Austin-Smith: Lord, recalls his former colleague, who died last month aged 81.
At the outbreak of the war, Mike Austin-Smith had been four years at the Architectural Association and almost a year in the Honourable Artillery Company in which he was to serve with distinction throughout the war and afterwards - an experience which culminated in his role as its co, and subsequently, as a full colonel and as master gunner within the Tower. In essence, this experience was his Part III and a vital element in honing his personal philosophy and skills.
His military training and first-hand observations of crisis situations showed him that success requires clear goals and strategy, planning and management - and creating a team. His master-stroke was to ensure that his architectural practice to be was to have the best architect/chief- of-staff possible and, to that end, he married his lifetime 'working and sleeping partner', as he put it, Inette in 1948.
Nevertheless, as a charismatic leader he was never autocratic. He always sought to achieve a willing consensus while not conceding anything on standards - as an architect, planner or man. He listened well, as his governmental and private clients, fellow partners and staff will testify. He always held that it was imperative to carve time out of an ever-busier schedule to think, co-ordinate policy and delegate. Much of his time he gave to the profession, to the aa as its president, to riba Council (he was twice vice-president) and to the uia as vice-president; but it was for his massive contribution to The Architect and His Office he should be remembered. He was awarded the cbe for services to architecture in 1965.
In the office he was diffident about his own skills, but his enthusiasm was infectious. When he did undertake direct control of projects he planned them like a campaign. The result was always a clearly stated and communicated objective, a list of factors to be taken into account, a designed solution, and the effective methodology for procurement and resources. No jargon, no hidden agendas or reservations. Moreover, the concept of continuity was built into the fabric of the firm from its outset.
Mike Austin-Smith died aged 81 in the year that the practice he founded with Inette celebrates its 50th anniversary. Austin-Smith:Lord, in its third generation, is his memorial and proud to be so.