Obituary: Dennis Sharp
Dennis Sharp, who died last week aged 76, was a very British architect with collaborators worldwide, says Paul Finch
He was best known as an author, teacher and critic, with countless articles, books, events and magazines to his name, but Dennis Sharp was a practitioner from the founding of his first practice in 1969, and undertook many buildings projects as well as exhibition design.
Sharp liked construction, no doubt as a result of his family background with a grandfather and his father both having been builders in his native Bedfordshire (one of his great regrets was coming second in the competition to design a new bridge in the city). He also liked working on old buildings; conservation work included Chandos House by Robert Adam near the RIBA in London, much work on buildings by one of his favourite modernist firms, Connell Ward & Lucas, and advice on the listed buildings at Ascot Racecourse (with HOK Sport, now known as Populous).
In respect of new work, he collaborated with Santiago Calatrava on Trinity Bridge in Salford (and on the influential Calatrava exhibition at the RIBA in 1992, which resulted in the opening up of concealed lighting and other original features); more recently he worked with Fast & Epp on the exhibition at Canada House of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics building.
He had an eye for emerging architects of interest, helping Manfredi Nicoletti with his Cardiff Bay Opera House entry, and the young Ken Yeang with his first Building Centre exhibition. His enthusiasm for architectural initiatives was infectious – he gave a warm welcome to our launch of the World Architecture Festival and acted as a judge.
Sharp had a great sense of right and wrong; he rescued a failing Anglo-Japanese reciprocal exhibition, raising funds to ensure the young Japanese architects who were expecting to be shown at the RIBA were not disappointed. His editing of magazines was a theme of his professional life, from the founding of AA Quarterly in 1968 until 1982, to being founder editor of World Architecture magazine for the International Union of Architects.
As an author he made an impact early on with Modern Architecture and Expressionism (1966), while his20th Century Architecture – A Visual History(1972) is still in print. Monographic studies of architects as diverse as Connell Ward & Lucas, Santiago Calatrava and Kisho Kurakawa were evidence of his interest in a very wide range of contemporary architecture.
His work with CICA, the international critics organisation, and DoCoMoMo, will be remembered with admiration and thanks. The later part of his life was made happy by his personal and professional partnership with Yasmin Sharif.