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Tributes paid to ‘extraordinary’ and ‘ludicrously generous’ Ted Cullinan

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The profession remembers the ‘progressive’ and ’‘generous-spirited’ architect Ted Cullinan who died this week, aged 88

Sasha Bhavan of Knox Bhavan
Ted Cullinan was an extraordinary architect, designer, teacher and friend to many. Of all the words that spring to mind when thinking about him, ‘generous’ is the one that stands out. Generous with his time, his talent and himself. He has nurtured and influenced generations of young architects including me. I have known him for more than 30 years – all my working life. Full of infectious energy and enthusiasm, he built a world of sharing and collaboration. We worked with, not for, one another and clients, and we shared the income with no one getting more than three times more than the lowest-paid member.

Consensus, not majority, was the rule of the day. Progressive in thought, intent and action, he pushed boundaries in his work harnessing his extraordinary design and drawings skills to entertain and deliver beautiful modern buildings. Beauty was important to Ted, as an essential part of good design. As a teacher, he was clear and engaging, never superior. He has made a difference to the world through his remarkable buildings, teaching and his imprint and influence upon the world of architecture. His spirit was indomitable – recently he asked me ‘How is your Dad?’ I replied he is ok but afraid of dying, to which Ted responded ‘Tell him to come and see me. I am not afraid at all’. He will be much missed.

Eca 1985

Edward Cullinan Architects in 1985

Edward Cullinan Architects in 1985 - Ted pictured in centre on bottom row

Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio
I am deeply saddened to hear of Ted Cullinan’s death. Over many years Ted has been an enormous influence. I first met him when he agreed to be interviewed for my undergraduate dissertation. He completely surprised this young student by inviting me to his house in Buxton and drinking and giggling with me into the night as he carefully answered my earnest questions.

Ted was an inspiring figure, full of warmth and integrity

He was equally encouraging a few years later as I started my studio in London only metres from his home and wobbled into professional life. Always ludicrously generous with advice and insights, Ted was an inspiring figure, full of warmth and integrity.

Charles Saumarez Smith
I was very sad to hear of Ted Cullinan’s death, not just because I admired his approach to architecture – so thoughtful about its materiality – but because, when I was at the Royal Academy, he was one of the nicest, most supportive and most generous-spirited of the older generation RAs. I never realised that he had been raised a Catholic, nor that his grandfather had owned a house designed by Inigo Triggs.

He was, in some ways, a latterday Arts-and-Crafts architect, interested in how buildings are made, in spite of his Modernist training. My favourite of his projects is the amazing, large-scale Faculty of Mathematics at Cambridge, which should have won the Building of the Year award when I was a judge, except we were told it wasn’t quite complete. He did the Divinity School too, which holds its own against Stirling. A 100 per cent nice man.

David Ayre of Ayre Chamberlian Gaunt
Our team are grateful to have enjoyed a number of thought-provoking and humorous design workshops with Ted over the past couple of years. We had been working closely with him to reimagine RMC House (now Cemex House), an exemplar office complex that was given a Grade II* listing in 2014.

259 cemex house ted cullinana wih david ayre of ayre chamberlain gaunt

Ted Cullinan with David Ayre of Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt at Cemex House

Ted Cullinan with David Ayre of Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt at Cemex House

We always had the full support of Ted and his team, who believed our inventive change of use was fitting for one of his favourite designs. He often talked about layers in his work and we feel honoured to have the opportunity and responsibility to add our own distinct layer to his classic. To walk the grounds of RMC House with Ted last summer is something we will always remember. Thank you Ted.

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