Architect Richard Burton, one of the co-founders of celebrated Modernist practice Ahrends Burton and Koralek (ABK) has died from cancer, aged 83
Born in London in 1933, Burton set up the energetic practice with fellow Architectural Association students Peter Ahrends and Paul Koralek in 1961 after the trio won an international competition to design Trinity College’s Berkeley Library in Dublin.
The three architects had been inspired by a ‘new-found support for modern architecture’ in the 1950s such as the Festival of Britain, the Hertfordshire schools and LCC housing.
Ahrends described this opportunity as a ‘dream ticket, enabling an energy-driven young group to to try to make good buildings’.
The company went on to win numerous high-profile commissions, including the much-praised Keble College extension (1977) and the original design for the National Gallery extension, which Prince Charles famously labelled a ‘carbuncle’.
The 1984 remark by the The Prince of Wales at the 150th anniversary of the RIBA created a lull in business just when ABK was reaching widespread acclaim.
In 2011 the practice’s 1971 Redcar Library was controversially flattened despite calls from The Twentieth Century Society for it to be saved.
Burton, who lived in Kentish Town, north London, retired from the business in 2002 and 10 years later ABK wound down its London office, although it still maintains an active Dublin studio.
Burton is survived by his wife Mireille, children and grandchildren.
ABK Berkeley Library 2
Simon Allford remembers a life well lived
Richard Burton has always, in one way or another, loomed large and cheerfully in my life. Richard and his wife Mireille Burton were friends of my parents. They lived around the corner and consequently I went to the local primary and secondary school with their children: ‘The Burtons’.
Richard happened to be the judge for our competition-winning design for Great Notley School. The last project I saw with my father shortly before his death was Torilla, the house Richard’s grandmother commissioned for his aunt, from my father’s partner, FRS Yorke. Richard spent much time in the house (he helped save it from demolition and it is now listed Grade II*) and shared a wonderful photo of himself, as a child in bib shorts, living the Modernist dream.
For the last 15 years as a fellow member of the Foreign Architectural Book Society I have dined and holidayed with Richard and Mireille.
Richard was a giant of a man, open, kind, generous yet determined
He was always interested, engaging and happy to share memories of conversations and events; ideas for the future (their extended family home is the classic ongoing research project where he continuously honed his ideas); and drawing. Richard was a giant of a man, open, kind, generous yet determined. He enjoyed and valued people, I suspect ever more so after surviving the same illness that claimed the life of his friend and collaborator, Frank Newby.
I heard of his death on Sunday lunchtime from his grand-daughter Hannah, who has recently joined our office. She said they were spending the day celebrating his life. They have much to celebrate, as do all of us who knew him.