Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Richard Feilden (1950-2005)

  • Comment

Whenever you met Richard Feilden, senior partner of Feilden Clegg Bradley, you were struck by his infectious enthusiasm and intelligent impatience to make the world a better place through design. His untimely death at the age of 54, crushed by a tree he was felling, has already affected so many - his wife Tish and their three children, his practice, his institution (RIBA) and his commission (CABE) - and the waters are still rippling.

Richard studied at Cambridge, where he met Peter Clegg, and at the Architectural Association, where he campaigned for bicycles. This was a time of change and his irrepressible optimism led him to rewrite project programmes, engage with the communities in which they were set and participate in sit-ins, yet finding time to make a 50m-long banana for a King's College ball; parties (and Christmas cards) were a crucial ingredient in his work-hard/play-hard rule of life.

After one brief year in Leonard Manasseh's office, he set up shop (literally) with Clegg as 'architectural designers' in London Road, Bath. They reinvented every wheel they could and became developers to design and build low-energy houses. This interest in energy led to many pioneering buildings including the Building Research Establishment experimental office and Greenpeace's headquarters.

Richard's optimism and vision led the practice to grow within a studiedly flat structure; in 1998 Richard set up the London office with Keith Bradley, and the two offices grew to 110. As a facilitator he encouraged others to excel but he was a focused design critic;

'infuriatingly, he was nearly always right, ' reports a partner.

I got to know Richard well, when he joined the RIBA Council in 1993 (-1999). He was vice-president of public affairs, which he dissolved on the basis that it wasn't achieving anything, and deputy chair to president David Rock. In this period, he was a special adviser to the (Rogers) Urban Task Force.

Richard's special area was education. He forged relationships at Sunderland, Queen Mary and King Alfred's College, Winchester, that led to award-winning buildings.

He helped set up an RIBA initiative - the Higher Education Design Quality Forum - to promote better design in other universities and more recently he chaired the RIBA/CABE Building Futures Steering Group that reported on 'learning environments of the future'.

Feilden Clegg Bradley designed many schools including the distinguished John Cabot City Technology College in Bristol. Richard led on City Academies and tried, in the belief that anything was possible, private finance initiative (PFI) schools, albeit with increasing frustration with their lack of ambition and the PFI process. We await the practice's schools in Northampton and Paddington.

In 2000 Richard was appointed a first-wave CABE commissioner.

His experience and optimism helped establish this great force for architecture and urban regeneration. In particular, he led the Education Enabling Group in a punishing programme that enabled 27 PFI school projects worth more than £1 billion. With his in-depth design knowledge, Richard led the CABE negotiations with the Department for Education and Skills, which, despite his strongest of challenges, is already missing its most 'critical friend'.

Richard was awarded an OBE in 1999 and the practice's awards are many. But one piece of unfinished business that he had just started working on again was his idea for a Bath Festival of Arts and Architecture, a summer school for students of all ages. Whether this is to become a lasting memorial or not, Richard will be sorely missed. But his example is one for us all: to fight with creativity and determination for better design for all, lower energy and much better environments for education. May he rest in peace in the glade he had nearly finished making as his father's memorial.

l Richard's funeral will take place tomorrow (14 January) at 12 noon at Bath Abbey. A memorial service will be held in London later in the year.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.