Richard Buckley (1963-2008)
Richard Buckley, founding member of Buckley Gray Yeoman, has died aged 44.
Richard Buckley was the founding partner of one of the ‘new wave’ of young design led architectural
practices that sprung up in London in the mid 1990s. The breadth of work undertaken by Buckley Gray
Yeoman remains a testament to his belief that design is a sensual experience, and can create
emotion across all human activity.
Along with his wife Fiammetta Gray and partner Matt Yeoman, he continually chased new challenges, often
stating, ‘pushing your luck is bloody hard work’. Once replying to a journalist’s question about why he had
started his own practice rather than climbing the career ladder in a big firm with the answer ‘partly naivety,
partly bloody mindedness, but mainly because there was no safety net. If we hadn’t made it work we could
never have done it again because we just wouldn’t have had the mental energy’.
Richard was born in Solihull in 1963 and after attending Sompting Abbots Prep School went on to complete
his schooling at Kingham Hill School, Oxfordshire. Leaving school at 16 he went to work for the
architectural practice of Wallace and Hoblyn in Glouceshire, initially as a tea boy. While at the practice he
studied part-time gaining an HNC in Business Studies and Management from Oxford Polytechnic. However,
it was his drawing and design skills that got noticed more than his business management acumen and, in an
almost philanthropic moment, the partners suggested that he give up work and leave them to study
architecture full time.
He took their advice and found an environment in which he thrived. He excelled in a subject that was to
become a driving force in his life. He achieved both his degree and post-graduate qualification from Oxford
School of Architecture. While studying for his degree, he spent time on exchange at the State University,
Virginia, USA. It was this time away that inspired his passion for travel, for experiencing as many cultures
and building vernaculars as possible.
Emerging from architectural school into the reality of recession in the early 1990s, Richard headed to
London and found work in one of the few sectors still building; social housing. He worked for two years for
Chakravarti and Partners in Islington before making the move to ORMS in 1993. It was at ORMS that he
met Matt Yeoman.
In 1992, he married fellow architectural student Fiammetta Gray. A perfect match, together they embodied a
great zest for life. Twice building their own home, setting up their practice when she was heavily pregnant
with their second child and creating a partnership that was once described as ‘poetic pragmatism’.
Richard believed that what you don’t put into life you don’t get out, that energy leads to a sense of energy,
which then breeds more energy. He remained committed to inspiring others and particularly enjoyed
sharing his enthusiasm for architecture with young people. Buckley Gray Yeoman have always made sure
there is work experience opportunities for young people starting out on their journey. Richard made sure
that he spent time sharing his knowledge and encouraging them.
There were two things that he would emphasis most to those interested in studying architecture; firstly how
important it was to travel in order to open their minds to the world; and secondly to pick up a pencil and
sketch, to fill books with what they saw. He felt strongly that the art of sketching in architecture was losing
out to the computer and recognised that it was imperative that young architects should be able to sketch
their ideas successfully. He was never that computer literate himself, preferring to use his laptop as a folder
for carrying his sketches, rather than the purpose for which it was intended.
Buckley and Yeoman often talked about design ideas and concepts that they could initiate themselves.
Many ideas came and went but in 2002, as a result of a back injury, Yeoman found himself lying in bed
doodling the designs for a new type of mobile home. He showed them to Buckley and in typical style,
Richard saw the potential for a new business. In 2004, Buckley and Yeoman set up their second business
together, The Retreat.
Buckley was always proud of the fact that they had ‘put their money where their mouths were’ and had not
just sat back looking at a great design idea but not doing anything with it. That was Buckley all over, he
believed anything was possible and pushed to achieve it.
Richard’s endearing quality was his charm. It was fascinating to watch. Sometimes, in his less confident moments, he would admit that he found the small talk and networking difficult, certainly not something which came naturally to him. He rarely attended the usual events of London’s architectural community, preferring instead to head home to be with his family.
Richard possessed another rare quality amongst design professionals: that of calmness and consideration.
He was passionate but not egotistical. Very rarely raising his voice, he did not enjoy confrontation and
would rather walk quietly away than argue. He could however be extremely single minded and stubborn
when he believed something was right.
As the practice grew, Richard developed into a father figure. He enjoyed wandering around the office,
sitting next to staff at their desks and ensuring that everyone was happy. Happiness played an important
part in his life. His aim was always to make people happy, whether through exceeding a client’s
expectations, telling a witting story or creating enjoyable spaces through architecture.
His sudden death comes at time when their staff had grown to thirty, with an exciting portfolio of
commissions, ranging from master-plans to individual houses, from restaurants to hotels, from student
housing to offices. Most recently Richard had been working on designs for an innovative waste to energy
plant. Their breadth of work matched only by their extensive list of clients.
He drowned swimming off the coast of Sri Lanka, while on holiday with his family. He is survived by his
wife, Fiammetta and three children, Bea, Millie and Teddy.
Richard Buckley, architect, was born on November 2nd 1963. He died on October 16th 2008, aged 44.