Tributes have been paid to leading urbanist Hank Dittmar, who died on Tuesday (April 3) at the age of 62
The director of Hank Dittmar Associates was a former chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, which merged with other organisations this year to form the Prince’s Foundation. During his time in charge between 2005 and 2013, he oversaw the development of its urban projects and education qualifications in areas including sustainability and heritage crafts.
Ben Bolgar, senior director at the Prince’s Foundation, said Dittmar was a ‘pioneer’.
He added: ‘As somebody who was at the forefront of the new urbanist movement, he had long been espousing the importance of a collective use of buildings rather than design of the building itself. However at the Prince’s Foundation, he took this a stage further and started to focus on the value of community and its relation to public space.
‘Whilst most architects have now truly focused on the art of urbanism, the next stage is to understand the impacts of public space on social interactions.
‘Hank will be fondly remembered by all at the Prince’s Foundation for his contribution to that debate.’
Dittmar provided advice to former London mayor Boris Johnson and served on the advisory panel for Terry Farrell’s review of architecture and the built environment in 2013.
Peter Murray, chair of New London Architecture, said: ‘Hank will be a great loss to London’s intellectual discourse on the building of better cities and better places. He was a thoughtful protagonist of ideas around permanence and change in the city.
‘Although we came from opposite ends of the architectural spectrum it was always a surprise how much we agreed on the fundamental qualities of good design and good urbanism and on the work of thinkers like Christopher Alexander and Stewart Brand.
‘The understanding and acceptance in mayoral policy of ideas around liveability owe much to his gentle persuasive powers.’
Robert Adam, director of Adam Architecture, said Dittmar was not only ‘a pivotal figure’ in the development of the Prince’s Foundation but also one of the key figures in the early days of the new urbanism movement in the United States.
Adam said: ‘The new urbanism movement had a considerable impact on places like Poundbury [the Dorset town backed by Prince Charles] but I think it’s more than that. It really began in the early 90s and it was really one of the founding organisations behind what I now call “contextual urbanism”. Hank had a very significant part to play in that.
‘When he came to the Prince’s Foundation he maintained his contacts with the American new urbanists and brought them over to the UK. He effectively brought the European urbanism movement together with the American urbanism movement.’
Dittmar was chairman of the Congress for the New Urbanism between 2003 and 2008, and founding president and chief executive of Reconnecting America, a not-for-profit organisation that advises civic and community leaders on overcoming community development challenges, between 2000 and 2005.
Lynn Richards, president and chief executive of Congress for the New Urbanism, of which Dittmar was a fellow, said: ‘Hank’s passion and desire for urbanism were enormous. His contributions to this cause span decades, from directing the Surface Transportation Policy Project and co-founding of Reconnecting America, to leading the charge on Lean Urbanism. We lost a legend and a leader yesterday.’
Dittmar’s family said he died of a heart attack in his sleep and had been undergoing drug trials for stage 4 cancer.
They said in a statement: ‘Hank’s love of music, literature and art filled his life with joy. He was moved to tears by beauty. Hank nurtured friendships spanning continents and decades. His positivity in the face of adversity aided his tireless work to better the world. As a father and husband his resilience and humour will always remain an inspiration.’
Among those to pay tribute on Twitter was Dave Davies, of the band The Kinks, who noted the ‘sad news about my dear friend’.