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Architects remember Michael Manser – a champion of better housing


The profession pays tribute to Michael Manser who died earlier this week, aged 87, following a stroke

Stephen Hodder, former RIBA president and director of Hodder + Partners
‘I am very sorry to hear about Michael Manser’s sad death. Michael designed some of the most breathtaking and inspiring one-off houses of the late 20th century, built in his pure, Modernist style. He championed well-designed housing throughout his career, encouraging the public to demand and mass housebuilders to supply better designed homes – for many years the RIBA presented an annual housing prize in his name, the Manser Medal.
Michael’s work is an inspiration to so many and he will be greatly missed. I for one will miss his wonderful anecdotes, his wise counsel and warm smile.’

Ewan Cameron of Ewan Cameron Architects
‘When we were commissioned to design a new guest pavilion adjacent to Michael’s seminal 1971 Capel Manor House, we knew we had a lot to live up to. When Michael called to express his approval of the completed building we were over the moon. Michael was a leading light in British Modernism and getting his endorsement meant the world to us.’

Sunand Prasad, former RIBA president and senior partner at Penoyre & Prasad
‘Michael Manser was for over four decades amongst the most consistent and energetic campaigners for the cause of good architecture in the service of society. He led by example as designer of some of the best houses in the country and also served the profession politically, not least as a distinguished President of the RIBA at a very difficult time when Modernism came under attack from the Prince of Wales.

’Michael unjustly but typically blamed himself for not having been able to counter the Prince’s views on planners’

‘He had first come to prominence as a fierce and outspoken defender of architecture against bad town planning processes and was appalled by the huge impact of the prince’s views on planners, unjustly but typically blaming himself for not having been able to counter them more effectively. The success and wide acceptance of his practice’s classical Modern designs, and the naming of the RIBA’s influential Manser Medal after him proved perhaps to be the best riposte.

‘His enthusiasm and passion of architecture and his openness to new ideas remained undiminished to the end; as did his uniquely gentle, combative and good humoured lack of tolerance for things badly done and compromises feebly made.’

Mike Gazzard, director at the British Homes Awards
‘My friendship and respect for Michael grew from the very first year he chaired the judging panel for the British Homes Awards, when in 1999, he stood up in front of an audience of over 450 homebuilders and developers and criticised their design vision and creativity and their reticence to employ architects. A muted applause followed.

‘His mission was to get homebuilders to challenge conventional practice, and commission architects to deliver groundbreaking designs; and he was delighted that in later years the awards have witnessed many remarkable schemes and projects, bearing the fruits of his ambition. And even though Michael was synonymous with Modernist cube designs, he was always fair and complimentary to traditional design. In leading the judges he declared: “As long as it is good of its type, it is a worthy candidate.”

’He was a very special man’

’His ambition to recognise young architects and provide them with the opportunity to showcase their expertise was the aspiration that motivated me to create in 2001 The Manser Medal, now recognised as the UK’s most respected award for bespoke design excellence. It is hoped that the medal and all past and future winners will stand as a lasting memory to Michael’s personal crusade to spread the work of the architect. He was a very special man, and through his unswerving support of the awards, a true friend to me.’

Owen Luder, former RIBA president
‘I was so sorry to hear of losing Mike Manser. He and José were great friends of mine and Jacqui. He was also one of the young group of architects who propelled me into standing for election as president in 1981. He was a great supporter during my presidency and followed me as president in 1983. Quite apart from that he was a very good Modenist – a sensitive architect with a string of very, very good buildings. And above all he was a lovely guy.’

Jane Duncan, RIBA President
’Michael’s portfolio of some of the most wonderful houses I’ve ever seen, and his focus and drive on his mission to improve the UK’s mass housing stock, have been a huge inspiration to me personally.

‘Michael was a charming man, a wonderful president and a generous supporter of young talent. We will miss him.’

John Lyall of Lyall Bills & Young
’Michael was a great mentor and colleague throughout my professional career; always positive in the face of adversity and the give of valuable advice. It was fantastic to have such a clever, creative architect as a leading figure in the profession.

’His two years as president of the RIBA were eventful and ground-breaking…among other things it was Michael who brought the ‘best-of’ the RIBA Drawings Collection out of the vaults and displayed them in the Florence Hall… the first time this had ever been attempted.

‘He was a quiet and influential helper and moderator with the mighty London Underground’

’On a professional level, he was a quiet and influential helper and moderator with the mighty London Underground on behalf of the twelve architects designing the Jubilee Line Extension stations, ensuring that we were not disadvantaged in our contractual arrangements. It was priceless support for good architecture and small, innovative practices.

‘I will also remember him as a thoroughly decent and kind man, with a sharp and wicked sense of humour. I always admired his sharp suits and horizontally-striped ties.’

Mike Stiff, co-founder of Stiff + Trevillion
’Extremely saddened to hear that Michael Manser has died. He was a friend and mentor.’




Readers' comments (2)

  • So sad. A great friend and mentor all my adult life. I will miss him greatly.

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  • Michael had a profound impact on my life, he gave me my first job in architecture even though I did not have an architectural degree. During my two years at the practice he always filled the room with his great sense of humour and sharp minded critique of the work. He convinced me I should return to school and become an architect so I owe so much to him, only read of his passing this weekend, a great loss to our industry, Will Foster

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