Michael Hopkins gave up to date expression to the institution

On the ceremony for the 1994 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, awarded collectively that 12 months to Michael and Patty Hopkins, Michael, who has died on the age of 88, solemnly hung the medal round Patty’s neck, to heat applause from the assembled viewers. Although the medal was (and stays) a singular object, Michael’s affectionate gesture made the purpose that it was equally merited and equally shared.

After Charles and Ray Eames in 1979, the Hopkins had been solely the second architect couple to turn into RIBA gold medallists. And positively, there was a kinship in how each units of architects had been impelled by a spirit of experimentation, memorably manifest within the home sphere. The well-known home that Michael and Patty constructed for themselves in Hampstead in 1976, a minimal, light-weight construction of ribbed metal and glass, logically usual from a package of components, had clear echoes of the pioneering Eames Homes in Pacific Palisades.

Made all of the extra genteelly subversive by its intrusion into bucolic Downshire Hill, the place Keats as soon as lived, the Hopkins Home was an audacious assertion of intent by a younger apply, changing into an instantaneous fixture within the trendy canon of English architects’ homes. However there was no nice mystique surrounding its conception. As they wrote within the Architectural Evaluation on the time: ‘The necessity to design one thing shortly (we had bought our earlier home) resulted in a kind of constructed feasibility research, the place the query requested was how a lot house we are able to get on this website in a easy, economical constructing kind.’

It proved an efficient and explosive launchpad. In a profession that spanned over 4 a long time, the work of Michael Hopkins turned synonymous with giving up to date expression to the establishments that framed English civic and cultural life. You can discover Hopkins buildings at Lord’s and Glyndebourne, within the Metropolis, up cathedral closes, on the Parliamentary property, in Oxbridge – even at Buckingham Palace, within the type of a bijoux ticket kiosk to cater for summer season guests. Deftly synthesising facets of custom and modernity, and at all times impeccably constructed, like a Savile Row swimsuit or Jaguar dashboard, the perceived ‘Englishness’ of Hopkins’ structure turned its defining high quality.

But to start with, it was formed by extra summary influences: the Eames, Buckminster Fuller and Norman Foster, with whom Michael labored in his early profession. Performed out in impartial, shed-like constructions, this early industrial mannerist part included a storage facility for Greene King Brewery (1980) and the Patera modular constructing system (1982), which was used to manufacture the apply’s places of work in Marylebone. Over time, nonetheless, Excessive Tech’s sharp edges had been sanded down right into a extra refined and nuanced contextualism, predicated on a wider palette of supplies, similar to timber, brick and lead, amplified and enriched by relationships with historic buildings and websites.

A turning level was the 1987 mission for the redevelopment of the Mound Stand at Lord’s, the non secular and bodily dwelling of English cricket. Confronted with this hallowed context, Hopkins opted to retain and prolong Frank Verity’s Victorian brick arcade as an earthbound anchor for a brand new stand, spectacularly topped by a tensile membrane roof. Conceived as a contemporary iteration of the village marquee, its creamy meringue peaks had been concurrently futuristic but acquainted, offering cricket’s Panama-hatted crowds with the right vantage level from which to whereas away summer season afternoons.

The Mound’s success led to Hopkins being clutched to the bosom of the institution and from then on, he and Patty by no means appeared again. Whether or not imaginatively remodelling Albert Richardson’s Bracken Home palazzo within the Metropolis, or designing a workshop and showroom for grasp cutler David Mellor, Hopkins’ marriage of craft abilities, supplies and know-how was at all times finely judged, to conjure formal and experiential richness in what has been described as a type of ‘historicist Excessive-Tech’. A brand new 1,200-seat theatre for Glyndebourne Opera, one other fixture of the English summer season, resembled a superbly wrought and fine-tuned musical instrument, enclosed in a protecting casing of brick and lead. It opened in 1994, the identical 12 months the Hopkinses had been awarded the RIBA Gold Medal. A 12 months later, Michael was additional honoured with a knighthood after receiving a CBE in 1989 and being elected to the Royal Academy in 1992.

Born in 1935, the son of a builder, Hopkins was introduced up in Bournemouth, on the south coast. He was educated at Sherborne, one in every of England’s oldest public faculties, after which at Bournemouth College of Artwork. Disenchanted along with his course, he sought solace in lengthy cycle rides round Dorset, exploring church buildings, cottages, farm buildings and nation homes, how and of what they had been made, and noting the connection between constructed kind and panorama.

Artwork college was shortly deserted in favour of an apprenticeship with a neighborhood architect, resulting in placements within the London places of work of Frederick Gibberd and Basil Spence. Deciding to recommence his research, Hopkins enrolled on the Architectural Affiliation, the place his tutors included Cedric Worth, Robert Maxwell and Peter Smithson, all forceful personalities who inspired radical considering.

Graduating in 1963, he labored for Leonard Manasseh, then joined up with Norman Foster, who had simply break up from Group 4. United by a mutual curiosity within the Eames, Craig Ellwood and the West Coast College, they labored collectively for seven years on tasks such because the Willis Faber & Dumas Headquarters in Ipswich and short-term places of work for IBM at Cosham, that includes a metal construction and glass pores and skin enclosing a versatile, deep plan. Typical of American apply, it was nonetheless new to Britain and have become the precursor to the Hopkins Home, transferring the know-how of trade to dwelling. However because it turned out, this was simply the beginning of the journey.

Emboldened by his expertise at Fosters, Hopkins arrange in apply with Patty (née Wainwright) whom he first met on the AA, the place she was one in every of its only a few feminine college students. Within the early years of their marriage, they lived in Suffolk, restoring a Sixteenth-century timber-framed home within the village of Cratfield, which offered a hands-on introduction to the complexities of development, earlier than transferring to London in 1970. Patty survives him as do the couple’s three youngsters Sarah, Abigail and Joel. Having grown up within the Hopkins Home, Abigail Hopkins adopted her dad and mom into structure, establishing Sanei + Hopkins Architects along with her husband in 2002. The opposite two are additionally in inventive and design-based professions: Sarah works because the mission director for the refurbishment of the Nationwide Gallery and Joel is a BAFTA-winning movie author and director.

Throughout the 90s, whereas his Excessive-Tech friends sought work overseas, Hopkins appeared content material to consolidate his apply on dwelling floor. Following the achievement of the Mound, there was no scarcity of labor, with Hopkins’ design abilities matched by his enterprise acumen. An workplace park at Bedfont Lakes (1992), new headquarters for the Inland Income in Nottingham (1994) and an bold campus for Nottingham College (1999) all confirmed talent in animating tabula rasa websites, whereas a brand new tube station to serve Westminster on the prolonged Jubilee Line exploited the subterranean drama of its construction with an virtually Piranesian depth.

Above floor, nonetheless, Portcullis Home, simply throughout the street from Large Ben, was initially thought to be uncommon miss. Meant to exchange an outdated anthill of MPs’ places of work with extra dignified trendy quarters, it was dogged by teething troubles and well-publicised spats over price overruns and technical difficulties. Massive chimneys designed to funnel air by the constructing quantity as a part of its environmental management technique gave it a brooding, Gormenghast-style grandeur, unflatteringly described on the time as ‘a Transylvanian fortress’… ‘as leaden as it’s charmless’. By then in his mid-60s, with 25 years in apply, Hopkins remained emotionless and waited for the mud to settle. Steadily, a extra charitable lengthy view emerged, extolling the constructing’s environmental credentials, structural logic and readability and consistency of detailing. On this, as in different tasks, Hopkins’ boundary-pushing collaborations with engineers, notably Arup, had been crucial.

Latterly, the apply expanded its sphere of operations to receptive shoppers in Japan, the Center East and the USA, whereas nonetheless sustaining an enviable monitor report within the UK. Late-career highlights included Kroon Corridor for Yale College (2009), the Velodrome for the 2012 London Olympics – its double curved roof incomes it the soubriquet ‘the Pringle’ – and Evelina Youngsters’s Hospital (2005), offering specialist paediatric care in a constructing explicitly designed neither to look nor really feel like a hospital.

With a way of issues coming full circle, one in every of Michael and Patty’s last tasks earlier than they lastly stepped again from the day-to-day operating of their apply was for one more home. It might hardly have been extra completely different from the one which initially made their identify. The Lengthy Home, accomplished in 2011 as a part of Alain de Botton’s Dwelling Structure programme of rural vacation properties, sat on a coastal website in Norfolk, marking a return to the English countryside, reviving a fascination with vernacular constructing methods. It blended in, reasonably than standing out, drawing on the traditions of the locality, with heavy flint partitions and an exquisitely detailed timber roof. Resembling a contemporary barn or medieval corridor, it appeared to have at all times been there, like most of Hopkins’ buildings, comfy with its setting, discreetly including to historical past.

Michael Hopkins is survived by Patty, by his three youngsters, and by 11 grandchildren who gave him ‘nice pleasure’, in line with the apply: Amy, Sam and Tom Youthful; Zak, Hana, Nina, Zal and Ziba Sanei; Jesse, Caspar and Max Hopkins.

Michael Hopkins: 7 Might 1935-17 June 2023 

View a collection of accomplished buildings by Michael Hopkins and Hopkins Architects right here

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