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Tributes paid to RMJM’s ‘outstanding’ Dubai designer Jonathan Knight

RMJM staff have paid tribute to Jonathan Knight, the company’s design principal in Dubai, who has died aged 47

Knight joined the AJ100 company’s Middle East Studio in April 2010 following a job with Korea’s Samoo Architects and a 16 year-long career at Hopkins Architects.

Raised in the Middle East, Knight studied at Cambridge where he took a first and won a prize for his final year thesis.

Arif Mahmoud, a Dubai-based colleague and friend, praised Knight’s commitment to mentoring younger architects and promoting a ‘humane sensibility, which is rare in this tough world of ours.’

He added: ‘His intellectual capacity coupled with friendly nature endeared him to his colleagues, clients and contractors alike. He was blind to colour, race and religion and had friends across the globe.’

Colleague Andy Shaw said Knight’s ‘spirit will be felt’ in the buildings he designed.

Shaw said: ‘As an architect he had a great attention to detail, a deep awareness of history and an ability to transform a flash of inspiration into action.’

Knight’s projects designed while at Hopkins included Nottingham’s Inland Revenue headquarters, the Manchester Art Gallery, Buckingham Palace’s new ticket office, the Lawn Tennis Association’s National Tennis Centre and the £7.2m Alnwick Garden Pavilion.

At RMJM he was credited with designing a raft of projects including the Metropol Istanbul mixed-use towers and the Khalediah Horse Arena in Riyadh.

In a message to staff, RMJM chief executive Peter Morrison said: ‘Jonathan was a pleasure to work with and an outstanding and devoted ambassador to architecture. He drew plaudits from clients worldwide and will be greatly missed by all at RMJM.

‘On a personal note I will miss Jonathan terribly - he was a close advisor and a good friend particularly when the going was tough. In addition to architecture, we shared a passion for Manchester United Football Club and his infectious excitement at great Manchester United victories will live long in my memory.’

Knight was survived by his wife Hee Sun Kim and two children Eugene and Pearl.

Eulogy by friend and former RMJM colleague Chris Jones [now at 10 Design]

‘I don’t know if you have ever seen a chihuahua choking on a fish bone. I have. Or at least the closest impression of one. It was Jonny’s favourite.

He had a formidable repertoire. Occasionally performed, often rehearsed. Around a dinner table, in a design meeting, on a plane and once to a perplexed but mildly amused ex-Iraqi general in a smoky restaurant somewhere outside the green zone in Baghdad. Humour was a large part of his life and he had the talent and wit to easily disarm.
He was also a formidable architect. Capable of clear thinking and rich creativity. An avid painter and accomplished sketcher he visualised his
thought process to great effect. He enjoyed language and could build a convincing narrative around his ideas to complement his quick hand. He
bought a patience and inclusiveness to the design process and always encouraged and empowered the staff.
Confident and proud of his achievements his Hopkins pedigree bought a critical rigour and creative passion to each design discussion and bought the requisite discipline to our conversations.
Never preoccupied and rarely distracted by the corporate noise of a large practice he remained focused on the job in hand and the real business of architecture.
Engaging and sincere most of the time, when the occasion required he could be wonderfully irreverent. He was a very open person who was keen to share his views and his loves with people around him.

He talked regularly, with deep love and affection, about his children, Pearlie and Eugene. We spent one long- haul flight together wrestling with a challenging question posed by his daughter the night before. Who is God’s dad? After a brief moment attempting an esoteric response, the suggestions soon descended into people who felt they could be God’s Dad, those that felt they should be
God’s dad, and those that simply thought they were God’s Dad. We knew a few.

Quick to compliment and acknowledge the strengths of others, self-deprecating, charming and talented.

That’s the impression he left on me - and it’s his best one by far. So long Jonny.’

 

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