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Michael Manser dies aged 87

Michael Manser crop
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Award-winning architect and former RIBA president Michael Manser, known for his pioneering Modernist houses and for founding the Manser Medal, has died aged 87 

It was during Manser’s presidency of the institute when Prince Charles made his infamous ‘carbuncle’ speech about modern architecture in 1984. He declined a CBE four years later.

Born in 1929, Manser studied architecture at Regent Street Polytechnic, now the University of Westminster, qualifying in 1954 before setting up his own practice, Michael Manser Associates in 1960.

One of his first schemes was a house for his parents and he went on to design a home for his wife José and their two young children, Jonathan and Victoria - Golden Grove House - which completed in Surrey (1960). 

Inspired by Mies van der Rohe, Manser met many ’fellow Modernists’ through his journalistic work in the 1950s and 1960s, writing for fortnightly for the Observer, Architectural Design and Home magazine. 

He went on to complete Capel Manor House in 1971, one of the first domestic houses to use exposed steel beams and floor-to-ceiling glass panes. The building was awarded a Grade II* listing in 2013.

Other key projects include the ground-breaking, 400 bedroom Hilton Hotel at Heathrow Terminal 4 with its huge glazed atrium which Michael Palin and JG Ballard both ranked among their favourite buildings.

Michael Manser's Capel Manor House, Kent

Michael Manser’s Capel Manor House, Kent

Michael Manser’s Capel Manor House, Kent

Over its 50 years the practice, which has offices in London and Leeds, worked extensively throughout the UK and Africa and oversaw projects in China, the US and Pakistan.

Although Manser effectively handed over the reins of his firm, which was renamed The Manser Practice in 1999, to his son Jonathan he continued in his later years as non-executive chairman.

Away from the studio Manser also served as chair of the Britannia National Homebuilders Awards and set up the Manser Medal to recognise the nation’s best one-off houses - a coveted award which is set to be resurrected in its own right later this year. He was awarded a CBE for services in architecture in 1993. 

Paul Finch, the AJ’s editorial director, described him as ’a wise and witty architect who was an adornment to the profession’.

He said: ’Whether as a critic, designer, RIBA president, Royal Academician or lunch companion, he brought equal measures of critical scepticism and constructive enthusiasm. He handled the Prince of Wales controversy in 1984 with grace and dignity under trying circumstances. And he promoted the architecture of dwellings over a long period via the Manser Medal, which will be a fitting annual reminder of a lovely man.’

Manser suffered a small stroke last year and died following another stroke earlier this week.

Golden Grove house in Surrey by Michael Manser

Golden Grove house in Surrey by Michael Manser

Source: The Manser Practice

Golden Grove house in Surrey by Michael Manser

Key projects

1960 - Golden Grove house, Surrey

1962 - Cliff Hanger, Surrey

1964 - Larchfield Swimming Pool, Surrey

1965 - Schild House, London

1965 - Buckland Cop, Surrey

1967 - Waterlooville Baptist Church, Hampshire

1970 - Armstrong House, Surrey

1971 - Capel Manor House, Kent

1974 – Mancett house, Wiltshire

1988 - Queen’s Suite, Heathrow Airport

1990 - Hilton Hotel (originally Sterling Hotel), Heathrow Terminal 4

1994 - Southampton Airport

2000 - The Great Eastern Hotel, London

2002 - British High Commission (Umoja House), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


Manser House Book by Peter Murray - Schild House

Manser House Book by Peter Murray - Schild House

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Such sadness. He and Jose have been life-long mentors to me. I will miss him greatly - a witty, charming and sensible man - and a good architect to boot.

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