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DEGW co-founder Peter Eley dies

Peter Eley, an architect, CABE enabler and co-founder of workplace specialist DEGW, has died.

Born in 1939, Eley left DEGW in 1989 to set up his own practice focusing on the reuse of old buildings and community clients with an emphasis on the arts, until he became ill with cancer. In remission, he became one of the first CABE enablers and did other consultancy work.Peter He is survived by Joanna (Joe) his wife, his daughter Sarah, sons Patrick and Michael and grandchildren, Sophia and Laura (Sarah’s daughters).

John Worthington who jointly submitted his final-diploma dissertation with Peter on graduating from the Architectural Association (AA), reflects on Eley.

‘Frank Duffy, Peter and myself worked together for the last three years of our time at the AA on a number of major projects. On graduating,the three of us in sequence studied in the United States on a Harkness Fellowship. I initially went to the University of Pennsylvania to study with Louis Kahn (1965-66) and was followed by Peter who took a masters in urban design (1966-68). On returning to England, Peter worked with Shankland Cox on the proposed new airport for London before joining Hillingdon as a housing project architect, and then joining Frank, myself and Luigi Giffone to establish DEGW as a partnership in 1973.

‘A few in DEGW will remember Peter as a work colleague, whilst others will have recognised Peter as a face. Many may not even know the significance of the initials of Duffy Eley Giffone Worthington. Peter’s contribution to the practice was to bring a concern for the processes of delivering buildings, combined with an engineer’s concern for detail - he had been commissioned for National Service in the Royal Engineers.

‘Peter had a love of good craftsmanship and old buildings. Together we did a series for The Architects’ Journal on reusing redundant industial buildings later published in 1984 by Architectural Press as “Industrial Rehabilitation, The reuse of old buildings for new enterprises”. This work drew together our experience of working with the emerging knowledge economy growing out of the electronics sector and the urban-design dialogue which Peter was involved with, finding new uses to revitalse our declining inner urban areas.

‘Peter was happiest working for local communities and public-sector clients. Jacksons Lane community centre, Kingsland Workshops, and the dance studios at Rotherhithe were all examples of his tenacity to bring a sense of hope and quality to declining areas on a shoestring budget.

‘In DEGW’s rapid growth during the early 1980s, Peter was responsible for the delivery of some of our largest corporate interiors, such as Ernst & Young, as well as continuing to work for the public sector, a new building for Tower Hamlets, and on urban regeneration studies.

‘In 1988, after the practice incorporated, Peter left to start on his own, where he could focus on returning to a size where he could have direct day-to-day contact with the client as user and enjoy the building as an artifact.

‘Peter’s lessons for DEGW, were that no job or client is too small, detail counts and to have the tenacity to keep fighting for what you believe in. Peter never under optimized, he kept to his high expectations.”

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