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‘Inspirational’ Ted Cullinan dies aged 88


RIBA Gold Medallist, teacher and much-loved architect Ted Cullinan has died

The architect behind groundbreaking buildings such as the Grade II*-listed RMC headquarters in Surrey (1990), the Stirling Prize-shortlisted Weald and Downland Gridshell (2002) and the green-roofed Centre for Mathematical Sciences (2003) died in his sleep on Monday (11 November).

Born in Islington, London, in 1931, Edward Cullinan (known as Ted) studied at Ampleforth College and Queens’ College in Cambridge before training at the Architectural Association and the University of California at Berkeley.    

He worked for Denys Lasdun in the early 60s, notably on the famous ziggurats at the University of East Anglia, before setting up Edward Cullinan Architects as a co-operative in 1965.

In a statement released today, the practice said his death had been ’hard for us to take in’.

It reads: ‘The inspirational founder of our practice was a true pathfinder for all architects. Ted was designing for climate change 60 years ago with a holistic vision for the practice of architecture that he described as a social act.

‘His legacy is in the buildings and places he transformed, in his model of architectural practice, but perhaps most powerfully in the thousands of people he taught and inspired throughout his long life. We share our deepest sympathies with his family and all his many friends.’

In 2008, Cullinan was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal. Three years later he survived a life-threatening pancreatitis and returned to his practice, which subsequently completed the Newcastle Maggie’s Centre in 2013.

Cullinan taught throughout his life and was most recently visiting professor at the University of Nottingham, having held professorships at the Bartlett (1978–9), Sheffield University (1985–87), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1985), and the University of Edinburgh (1987–90). 


Alan Jones, RIBA President
Architecture has lost a pioneer. Ted will be sorely missed and fondly remembered for the incredible contribution he made to architecture and society. He was a radical thinker, well ahead of his time on environmental issues and building sustainably. I am pleased that Ted was presented with UK architecture’s highest accolade during his lifetime – the 2008 Royal Gold Medal – in recognition of his immense talent and leadership.

Not only did Ted shape our landscape – leaving behind dozens of ground-breaking buildings – but he inspired the next generation as one of the great teachers of our times, inspiring thousands of students and colleagues with his enthusiasm, energy and boundless knowledge. Our thoughts are with Ted’s family, friends and colleagues”


Readers' comments (10)

  • RIP Ted, a man of great charm and humour as well as a lovely Architect to work with - we worked together on the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and it was a thoroughly enjoyable collaborative learning experience with him and the team at ECA. He will be much missed.

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  • He gave a very energetic and engaging lecture at Brookes which thoroughly informed my subsequent projects to play with the earth/ roof scape shift. A lovely man and great architect who will be missed.

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  • I helped bring Ted to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (USA) in 1993 for a campus design student charrette (with Piers Gough and Christine Hawley). Ted’s work fascinated the university’s Chancellor, and the practice ended up winning the contract for the campus master plan in 1995.
    Ted, with Johnny Winter and Robin Nicholson, produced a plan that was ahead of its time in many respects. Just this year (2019) the university started a large hotel and conference centre exactly where Ted drew it, 24 years earlier - next to a light rail station that Ted positioned (exactly where it is today) more than 20 years before the city built the line to the University.
    Ted was a true visionary, and my American students loved him for his skill and great generosity. So did I.
    David Walters RIBA

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  • I lead a biennial studies abroad course to the UK focused on sustainability for graduate students in architecture. When I was first setting up the course in 2006 I was scouting work that I admired and Ted's was prominently in my view the Maths at Cambridge, the Gridshell at Weald and Downlands, the Elementary School at Millennium Village, and more. I marked TCA as a must see firm with admiration for Ted's vision and craft. Since 2006 my students have participated in a one-day charrette at the Cullinan Studio during each studies abroad course. Ted's generosity of spirit lives on at the practice. Thank you Ted!
    Bruce Haglund, Distinguished Professor of Architecture, University of Idaho

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  • Phillip Thomas

    I grew up in architecture admiring Ted Cullinan's work. His centre at Minster Lovell was visited from college in Cheltenham and he ended up designing one of the campus buildings at Pittville before the college was sadly demolished to become a student village.
    His work struck a chord in me and when I later became President of the Gloucestershire Association of Architects we invited him to come and speak to us. I still remember his impromptu delivery using an overhead projector, acetate and marker pens, I still have those sketches..............Architecture will miss him and is the poorer....
    Phillip Thomas Dip Arch Glos RIBA

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  • Ted Cullinan was a generous man and often quite experimental in his work. Having heard that i had publicly criticised a building of his - instead of taking umbrage , invited me to see more of his projects. He is a fine example of how a 'key figure' SHOULD behave and perform.
    Peter Cook

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  • A true jolly Green Giant!! He stood on the shoulders of other giants, Denys Lasdun, and sheltered giants in other fields, Stephen Hawking in the Maths facility in Cambridge. A remarkable building, well worth a visit, especially if you can get in?!

    And he sounds like he was a thoroughly nice bloke and family man. An example to follow in all we try and do.

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  • Great and charming architectural intelligence - but no one has ever bettered Ted Cullinan's ability to give a live design-thinking performance (aka lecture) with coloured pens and an old fashioned overhead projector; that was an education.

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  • Ted was regarded as many, including myself, as a father figure in the architectural profession. Despite his great reputation and high standing, Ted always found time for those at the beginning of their career in architecture. I was grateful to be a client and close friend, meeting Ted in London and with Roz in Buxton at the annual Opera Festival. His paternal and professional approach alongside his talent marks him as a giant of his generation and an example to those who follow.
    Trevor Osborne, Past President BPF

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  • Since five of us shared a studio at Cambridge in 1952, Ted Cullinan's life and mine have been intertwined. We went through Cambridge and the AA together. He taught me more architecture than any of our fine teachers, I coached him in the Queens College VIII (he was a nimble oarsman); my wife and I were in his labour gangs which rebuilt Belle Tout lighthouse, he supervised the little house I'd designed when I pushed off to the USA; the white wisteria tree in our garden is held up by a structure he built one weekend, at Gib Tor in the Peak Park his shelterbelts included withys from our woods. More recently he and I went on an expedition to buy Roz a skirt, and my last encounter with them both was when he gave a heart-felt funeral eulogy for John Money-Kyrle, another of us Cambridge Five.

    Others have spoken eloquently of his architecture, provocatively imaginative yet always humane. What ran through all of that, all of his teaching and all of Ted's life, was his understanding of and feeling for people. He was a great architect because he was a great human being. It's been an inspiring privilege to have loved – and been loved by – Ted. And he was such fun.

    Roger Cunliffe

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