RICHARD PAXTON 1956 - 2006
Richard Paxton, who died on Monday at the age of 49, was an architect who practised what he preached. His career, and indeed his life, was carried out against a backdrop of constant change; houses and offices or houses/offices whose ceaseless state of flux refl ected a restless enthusiasm for transformation and a boundless thirst for architectural experiment.
Having studied at Kingston, Richard worked for various big-name practices before settling at ABK. A commission for a home for author Douglas Adams (of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame) allowed him to set up Paxton Locher Architects with his wife, Heidi Locher, whom he met in his teens (a wellmeaning aunt lured him to a party on the promise of meeting 'a beautiful blonde from Roedean'. He was already smitten by the time he realised he'd made a beeline for the wrong one). The commissions were quick to follow. The practice's prolific portfolio of one-off houses includes several for high-profi le clients, including the comedian Griff Rhys Jones. Other projects include the conversion of a synagogue into the Soho Theatre Company and Writers' Centre, workshops and rehearsal space for the Jerwood Foundation in Southwark and offices for the engineers Elliott Wood Partnership.
But the couple's most astonishing achievement is the series of houses which they built for themselves and their two children. As a body of work, these exemplify the couple's ability to unlock the potential of apparently unusable sites.
The most high-profile of these was the house at Clerkenwell Green, a site surrounded by blank walls on all four sides.
The architects created a courtyard arrangement with a sliding glazed roof, creating a light-drenched internalised living environment which turned into an open-air - but completely secure - home when the weather allowed.
Eternally restless, the couple moved on to their next project shortly after the completion of Clerkenwell Green, another 'challenging' site in London's Primrose Hill, where toplighting and an internal swimming pool combat the potential gloom of another enclosed site, and form an essential part of the services strategy. Part architectural experiment (spatially, structurally and in environmental terms); part show-stopping penthouse complete with Boy's Own gadgetry (a full size snooker table which rises silently out of the floor at the flick of a switch); and part family home (complete with self-contained mini-homes for the children) the project reflects the tastes of a man who was a courageous and hugely talented architect, intensely sociable, and a devoted family man.
The last time I met Richard, he was bursting with excitement over the fact that this long-running project was eventually coming to a close, and the family would finally be able to enjoy their dream home.
True to form, he was planning their next move.