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Obituary: Herbert Fitzroy Robinson, 1914-2005

Herbert Fitzroy Robinson, who has died at the age of 91, was the founder of one of the country's largest and most successful commercial practices.

During his 45-year career, he built up his practice - now Aukett Fitzroy Robinson - into one of the largest in Europe.

Before he retired in 1986, Fitzroy Robinson had seen his business build and fit out nearly 2 million m 2of offices in the City of London alone.

A formidable combination of authority and self-confidence, Fitzroy Robinson had a winning charm which inspired the affection and loyalty of his colleagues and the admiration of his peers.

Born in Bangalore, India, in 1914, he came to England as a young boy to start his education. After a spell at a preparatory school near Rugby, he went to Shrewsbury, where his potential as a talented artist and draughtsman began to bloom.

He was also an enthusiastic oarsman and reserve for the Shrewsbury first eight at Henley Regatta.

In 1931 Fitzroy Robinson began his education at the Bartlett School of Architecture, where he was taught by Professor AW Richardson - the architect of the Financial Times building in Cannon Street. It was the start of his love of Classical architecture and it was while at the Bartlett that he heard the phrase 'architecture is a conspiracy with the sun' - an aphorism he would frequently re-quote.

After graduating in 1936, he joined a small studio where he produced designs for some of the set-piece light fittings on the Cunard liner Queen Mary. From there, he moved to architectural practice Beresford Marshall, where he worked on the King's House, intended for the disgraced royal, Edward VIII.

Two years later, realising war was inevitable, he joined the Territorial Army and went on to serve in the Royal Artillery.

Attached to HQ 6 AA Division as ADC in April 1940, he spent the entire war supporting London's air defences. He transferred to HQ 1 AA Corps as Staff Captain in April 1941 and was later promoted to Major in 2 AA Group. Towards the end of 1943, he became involved in the detailed planning of Operation Diver, carried out the following year.

These anti-aircraft batteries to the south coast resulted in the downing of a large number of V1 'Doodlebug' flying bombs as they crossed the coast en route for the capital.

In 1946 he joined Ashley & Winton Newman. However, the elderly partners died and shortly afterwards he formed a new, but short-lived, partnership with Hubert Bull.

He took clients, most noteably Charles Clore, Basil Samuel of Great Portland Estates and Harold Samuel of Land Securities, with him when he formed Fitzroy Robinson & Partners.

His appetite for work was legendary. He would regularly take a brief from the the Land Securities chief away on a Friday to produce a considered design for the following Monday. Often leaving a meeting in a taxi, he would have refined and redesigned an office core plan, producing a few more precious useable square feet for his client by the time he returned to his desk.

On one occasion, a client phoned to say that his hotel in Bermuda had burned down. Dropping everything, he flew out with his drawing equipment. Later he was able to claim that he had 'redesigned the hotel while the ashes were still warm'.

Among the major work completed by the practice in London is Angel Court; banks for NM Rothschild & Sons, Brown Shipley ( pictured below), Standard Chartered, Manufacturers Hanover Trust and Banque Nationale de Paris; the collaborative projects of the Stock Exchange and Home Office buildings and headquarters for Sun Alliance and Sedgwick Forbes and the American School.

Outside the capital, he designed three regional banks for the Bank of England in Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle as well as the award-winning grandstand at Sandown Park ( AukettFitzroyRobinson backs a winner at Sandown racecourse

).

A witty raconteur and much-sought after guest at professional events, he spent his retirement at his homes in the UK and America. A highly accomplished watercolourist, he continued to enjoy fly fishing and later discovered a new hobby in the construction of large-scale model sailing ships.

Herbert Fitzroy Robinson, who died on 13 November, is survived by his long-term companion Sue, and his three children from two earlier marriages.

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