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Norman Foster on the life and legacy of Richard Burton

Richard burton architectural press archive riba collections
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Foster honours ‘big-hearted’ Richard Burton, who died at the weekend, aged 83

I was greatly saddened to learn of Richard Burton’s passing. He was an exceptional architect whose work, for me, exemplified the optimism of the post-war era.

The design of his Berkeley Library in Trinity College, Dublin, was a highly restrained scheme that reflected a clarity and maturity that belied Richard and his colleagues’ age and experience. This maturity came to the fore again in the face of the ‘carbuncle’ attack by Prince Charles in relation to their contemporary proposal for an extension to the National Gallery. 

ABK Berkeley Library  3

ABK Berkeley Library 3

With a strong belief in an architecture that serves society, Richard always saw architecture as a humanistic art, forever looking at how a building could enhance the lives of the people who use them.

This concern for society was evident in his personal involvement with the RIBA Energy initiative in the 1970s, which was one of the pioneering sustainability initiatives at a time when it was not a fashionable term.

His outlook on the holistic design of hospital environments also echoed my own on how views of nature and green spaces can help patients recover more quickly. 

His work always attempted to bridge the old and the new. The remarkable House of Trees, built for the Makepeace School in Dorset, was a rare and successful example of sophisticated engineering married to innovative architecture and traditional craft skills.

A big-hearted and articulate man, Richard Burton has left behind an architectural legacy that will continue to be a source of a great inspiration for generations to come.

Norman Foster HR crop use

Norman Foster HR crop use

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