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Obituary: Trisha Gupta (1947–2019)

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The former group chief architect at housebuilder Countryside Properties had an exceptional career, writes Adam Herbert

After graduating from Edinburgh University, Trisha initially worked for the Brentwood-based architects practice Stanley Keen and Partners before moving to Essex County Council’s planning department. She subsequently joined Countryside Properties in 1981 and was appointed to the main board in 1984, remaining in this position until retirement in 2007.

As a director and group chief architect, she was responsible for all architectural, engineering, technical, landscape, and environmental services, largely managed from a 50-strong in-house department.

Trisha was appointed a director at Countryside at a time when it was rare for a woman to sit on the main board of a listed company, particularly in the male-dominated construction industry, and it was probably unique for a woman and a practising architect to be in such a position.

Trisha specialised in new-build residential architecture. This was unusual, as most housebuilders were steering away from using architects, whom they regarded as adding cost but not value. Working with the chairman, Alan Cherry, and his team, she was responsible for designing many newly built communities with great architecture and a tremendous sense of place.

Trisha had a unique understanding of how to combine good-quality architecture with the disciplines and rigours of construction economics and she was a good team player. As a result, the designs on her drawing board always became reality. She was responsible for the design of several thousand constructed homes, including award-winning developments such as Great Notley Village in Braintree and St Marys’ Island in Chatham, a scheme involving architects such as PCKO and Buschow Henley Architects.

Stmarysisland countryside homes

Stmarysisland countryside homes

St Marys’ Island in Chatham

Trisha’s career in housing architecture was truly game-changing. Her talent raised the quality of new housing and set a precedent which was subsequently followed by many architects and housebuilders across the country.

While working for Countryside Properties she became a member of several working parties for organisations such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the (former) DETR and the Centre for Accessible Environments on subjects generally relating to the planning and design of housing and new communities. In 1995, she was awarded an MBE for this work.

Trisha also involved herself closely with the RIBA for many years in both branch and regional activities. She served on the RIBA East Regional Council in various capacities from 1987 to 2011, initially as chairman of the Chelmsford Chapter of Architects, 1987-1989, progressing to the office of RIBA East Vice Chairman and then as Regional Chairman 2003-2005. This was followed by a second period as Chelmsford Chapter Chairman 2006-2008, culminating in taking office as RIBA East Hon Treasurer 2009-2011.

At a national level, Trisha represented members on the RIBA’s national Membership & Regions Committee 2003-2005 and sat on what is now the RIBA Board from 2006-2009. She was also a well-known and popular member of the RIBA Women in Architecture Group, promoting equality within the profession, raising awareness of the role of women architects, and offering support and encouragement to other women architects.

During the same period, Trisha volunteered her time as a student mentor at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, supporting the university’s mentoring scheme, and participated as jury member on the RIBA East Spirit of Ingenuity Awards. She stepped back from her branch and regional work towards the end of 2011, having retired from Countryside Properties a few years earlier.

Trisha Gupta passed away peacefully at home in Maldon, Essex on Thursday 24 October 2019, aged 72, following a short illness. She leaves behind a grandson, Sam, sister, Penny and brother, David.

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