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RIP Michael Manser (1929-2016)

June 28, 2016

British-based architect and champion of modernist architecture, Michael Manser, passed away on June 8, 2016. Widely recognized as an innovator, educator, writer, and leader in the profession, Manser is famously a past President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the founder of the successful firm of his namesake, The Manser Practice, founded in 1960.

Influenced by the German architect Mies van der Rohe, Manser also borrowed influences from Andrea Palladio and the mathematics of proportion. He met fellow Modernists through his journalistic work in the 1950s/1960s, writing for the Observer, Architectural Design and Home magazines.

His reputation was founded early on by one-off modernist houses, and is remembered for other key projects, including the ground breaking 400 bedroom Hilton Hotel at Heathrow Terminal 4. The huge atrium, with clear glass views at each end have been cited by travelers such as Michael Palin and JG Ballard as their favorite building.

RIBA Immediate Past President Stephen Hodder said of Manser’s passing, “I am very sorry to hear about Michael Manser’s sad death. Michael designed some of the most breathtaking and inspiring one-off houses of the late 20th century, built in his pure, modernist style. He championed well-designed housing throughout his career, encouraging the public to demand and mass house builders to supply better designed homes—for many years the RIBA presented an annual housing prize in his name, the Manser Medal. Michael’s work is an inspiration to so many and he will be greatly missed. I for one will miss his wonderful anecdotes, his wise counsel, and warm smile.”

Tony Chapman FRIBA, former RIBA Head of Awards, added, “The sad death of Michael Manser marks an end point in British modernism as applied to domestic architecture. The best of his houses from the 60s, 70s and 80s with their rational plans and brave use of generous near-frameless glazing showed him to be the English heir to Mies. Michael continued to be as excited by new ideas in architecture as he was angered by bad ideas and bad buildings. He took the subject seriously, never more so than when judging houses for the prize on his name. He was generous and encouraging to younger architects, particularly those on whom he detected some sign of the same spark that drove his own young projects ... We will probably not see his likes again.”

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