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Ivor Smith

Ivor Smith

Ivor Smith

Park Hill architect Ivor Smith dies aged 92

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Tributes have poured in for Park Hill architect Ivor Smith, who has died at home aged 92

Smith, one of the key figures behind the iconic 1961 Sheffield housing estate, passed away peacefully last weekend.

Leading industry figures lined up to pay their respects to the renowned architect, who also taught and wrote about the subject.

Roger Hawkins, partner at Hawkins\Brown, which worked on the first phase of Park Hill’s ongoing overhaul alongside Studio Egret West, said it was a ‘privilege’ to meet Smith.

‘He was always witty and supportive,’ said Hawkins. ‘If anything, he wanted us to be more ambitious. We couldn’t have done it without him.’

Studio Egret West founding director Christophe Egret said showing Smith the completed first phase of the revamp was a ‘special moment’.

’He was very happy that the building had been given a second lease of life,’ said Egret. ’We owe a legacy to Ivor and it is enormously satisfying to bring Park Hill back to life.’

Nick Riley, board director at Whittam Cox, which was recently appointed to the third phase of the Park Hill revamp, said Smith left an ‘incredible legacy’.

He added: ‘The integrity and quality of his design at Park Hill was forward thinking in the 1950s. Today [the housing estate] is remarkably still as forward thinking in a contemporary context; this clearly demonstrates the incredible skill of his work.

‘As we reinterpret the design to create new living models at Park Hill, it is actually easy to retain the many strong design principles and features of this building.’

Annalie Riches, founder of Mikhail Riches – another practice to play a part in Park Hill’s refurbishment – said she was inspired by Smith’s scheme.

‘As a student at Sheffield I always admired Park Hill; it inspired me to get involved with housing,’ she said. ‘It’s a great privilege to be working on phase two, and studying it in depth has been fascinating.’

Catherine Croft, director of conservation body the Twentieth Century Society, said Park Hill was ‘a major achievement’.

Ivor Smith (second from the right) at Park Hill in 2011

Ivor Smith (second from the right) at Park Hill in 2011

Ivor Smith (second from the right) with Christophe Egret (first left), developer Urban Splash’s Jonathan Falkingham (second left) and Greg Moss of Hawkins\Brown (far right) at the completion of the first phase of the transformation of Smith’s Park Hill estate in Sheffield in 2011

Born in January 1926, Smith grew up in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, but it was his evacuation to Derbyshire towards the start of the Second World War that shaped his future career.

He spoke fondly about his time in Derbyshire, according to son Piers Smith, recalling ‘cycling around villages drawing churches and industrial buildings, and studying Banister Fletcher’s History of Architecture’.

A conscientious objector, Ivor Smith worked on a farm during the latter years of the war before transferring from the Bartlett School of Architecture to the Architectural Association.

In 1953 he took up a position in the city architects office in Sheffield, where he and the late Jack Lynn designed and oversaw the building of Park Hill.

He later formed Ivor Smith Architects in Oxfordshire in the 1960s and launched a teaching career that started in Cambridge and continued in Dublin, Bristol and the Caribbean.

In the final years of his life, he wrote Architecture an Inspiration drawing together the key principles of his architectural thinking.

‘Ivor had a special gift to be able to read buildings and when people showed an interest he could interpret and explain why an entrance was here rather than there,’ said Piers Smith.

‘People may be surprised to know that although his work was very modern, he abided to classical principles.’

Ivor Smith enjoyed life to the end.

‘Despite his extreme breathlessness and his reduced mobility he remained an optimistic, forward-looking man,’ said Piers. ‘On the day he died he had been out into Cambridge on his mobility scooter and had just finished re-covering a sofa.’

Hawkins recalls: ‘He was full of stories about the original build in the late 1950s, including one time being called to site urgently when the rear of the local butcher’s shop was demolished in error, while there were still customers being served.

‘Don’t worry, son, he was told. Most of the stock is already dead.’

Ivor Smith is survived by his wife Audrey, four children, eight grandchildren – two of whom are architects – and five great-grandchildren. 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Amazing man and ahead of his time. Great vision and out on his mobility scooter on the day he died!

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  • He was head of the architecture faculty at UCD when my wife was studying there. She said, 'he gave great parties'. High praise indeed from a Dubliner.

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