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David Lyle, pragmatic free thinker and idealist, dies at 69

David Lyle, who has died at the age of 69 in a tragic accident, was an architect whose attention to detail ensured the success of any grand design. His quiet and considerate manner helped his associates and other professionals to dig deep and discover pearls of innovation they thought they did not have. There was another side to his quiet demeanour. He was a tough negotiator, with a patience and persistence worthy of any diplomat. At times it worried some weaker members of a client's team, but the end result was a building that few could criticise.

David was born in Liverpool of English-Celtic stock. His interest in architecture was nourished by reading old copies of House & Garden belonging to his mother and then proceeding to make his own detailed drawings. After National Service with the raf as a radio mechanic, he graduated from Liverpool University's school of architecture, and came south in the late 1950s to London's Goodge and Charlotte Street area. It was to become the architectural and engineering engine of the 1960s, where 1930s Berlin Bauhaus and writers' Paris were all rolled into one. Ove Arup, Sir Basil Spence and Huw Weldon all rubbed shoulders with the apprentices of today's Modernism while eating in the city's first Spaghetti House. David Lyle was a contributor to the spirit of this age, including indestructible community buildings and pneumatic walk-through human structures, long before any Millennium wheezes!

Following the path of the uk's most radical progressive educationalist, A S Neill, Lyle was a founder member of Kirkdale, a South London progressive school opened in 1965. It was a school where the kids were never told what to do, but to learn by example and find their own strengths. It provided the primary education for all his children and many others.

In 1962 he joined the architect, William Whitfield, becoming a partner seven years later. Always a team effort, Whitfield's sketch idealism was given life by Lyle. Buildings that show his touch include the Institute of Chartered Accountants' hq, Sheffield University's law school and the new Metropolitan Police offices on Bessborough Street, Pimlico. A more precise image of Lyle's work is the restored Lambeth Palace Chapel and the recently restored Savoy Theatre in The Strand. Sir William Whitfield cbe, found that 'David was a good person to work with. His heart was in architecture. We worked together in a most amicable manner for 36 long and fruitful years'.

David Lyle brought together many different and divergent strands of English society. For his many friends it was an interesting juxtaposition to find a working partnership between a man from northern landed gentry and a free thinker who would happily have a copy of the anarchist newspaper Freedom sticking out of his back pocket during meetings with top brass from the Met. But that was his strength and style. His craft was fine architecture. He respected all viewpoints. Like his designs he believed that he had the natural right to express what was his own.

He leaves behind four children - Cate, Mary, Tom and Ben - and two step- children, Buki and Suzy.

Bill Holdsworth

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