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Olcayto and Hawley pay tribute to Kathryn Findlay on Radio 4

AJ deputy editor Rory Olcayto and Bartlett professor Christine Hawley have paid tribute to Kathryn Findlay on BBC Radio 4

Speaking on the Last Word programme, Olcayto remembered Findlay, who died aged 60 earlier this month, as a ‘natural architect’.

The co-founder of Ushida Findlay Architects, Kathryn Findlay was revealed as winner of the 2014 Jane Drew Prize, just hours after news broke that she had died.

Olcayto was joined by Findlay’s tutor Christine Hawley, who taught her at the Architectural Association in 1978. She commented: ‘Kathryn, unlike others, was not following the famous and the fashionable. She actually took a great risk and it was wonderful. Kathryn was not only the first, but probably one of the most inspiring students that I’ve ever had. She had skills that I could only dream of.’

Hawley and Olcayto went on to discuss Findlay’s early house projects, including the Truss Wall House in Tokyo, completed in 1993.

Olcayto said: ‘[Her houses] didn’t look like anything which had come before. They seemed to mix the best of Frank Lloyd Wright, a little bit of Gaudi, and the friendly optimistic modernity of Dan Dare or 50s science fiction.

[Her houses] didn’t look like anything which had come before

‘She imagined Truss Wall House, which kind of looks bubble-like, as an apple originally, as a kind of solid sphere, and with a maggot or a worm carving out the interior space.’

Hawley added: ‘The Truss Wall House is really quite extraordinary. The only way that I can describe it or summarise it is that it is a piece of sculpture. It is a piece of sculpture which has an extraordinary, organic, fluid form. It has an extraordinary sinuous plan, so as you rise up through this very tiny house it just feels as if you are moving through a continuous space. The light comes in at extraordinary angles and illuminates the space, and the interior of the building just grows.’

Soft and Hairy house, Tokyo

Soft and Hairy house, Tokyo

The programme featured archive footage from BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in which Findlay described Hairy House, another of her early projects in Tokyo.

‘One day we were sitting in our office and this telephone call came from a young man and he said “I’d like a soft and hairy house”’, she said.

‘Both of us almost fell of our chairs. When we picked ourselves up, he then explained to us that his wife had read that according to Salvador Dali, the architecture of the future would be soft and hairy. And that this image conjured up the kind of feeling that they wanted in the house that they wanted to live in. The couple wanted a house which also provided a message to the neighbours of the environment that they were destroying.

‘So when we built this house we decided that the greenery which we were cutting from the ground would be replaced by putting it on the roof of the house, so it fitted the feeling of the soft envelope of the house capped with a sort of hairy garden.’

Findlay’s daughter Miya Ushida, will collect the Jane Drew Prize on behalf of her late mother at the AJ Women in Architecture luncheon on 7 February, where engineer Jane Wernick will give a speech about Findlay’s work.

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