Tributes to Chris Wilkinson

We have been tremendously moved by the enormous number of tributes to our founder Chris Wilkinson, who died on 14th December 2021.  A selection are shared below.

Jim Eyre, Co-Founder and Director of WilkinsonEyre:

''I am deeply saddened by the loss of Chris Wilkinson. We have had a working relationship going back 38 years, which started at Michael Hopkins’s office and led to me gladly joining Chris in his new practice in 1985. His easy going, considerate and kind nature meant working together was a joy and we both felt there was lots of future potential when we formed a partnership in 1987. It was such a pleasure to work together on so many of our earlier projects, but as we grew as a firm we inevitably worked more independently with various members of our brilliant team, but always enabled by the absolute trust we shared in each other, that I valued more than anything. I will miss him greatly.''

James Dyson, Inventor, Founder of Dyson Limited and Provost of the Royal College of Art (RCA) 2011-2017:

''I was introduced to Chris by my structures tutor at the RCA, Tony Hunt, in 1994 to develop our first purpose-built Dyson factory. I hadn’t worked with an architect before, but Chris asked lots of questions and immediately started sketching out his ideas. He did not come rushing in and say ‘this is what you should do,’ instead he listened, quickly got deep into the specifics, and was excited to try daring new approaches; so he seemed to be the right man for the job! 

Chris was beside us at every stage of our expansion, over the nearly thirty years since then, conceiving many schemes that were built and more that were not. He was always generous with his time, gentle, highly creative and humble about his well-deserved and significant international successes. Notably, he was always utterly respectful of the budget, not pushing for extravagance – an admirable, and unusual, quality in an architect! 

It has always been very important that Dyson’s people work in inspiring spaces and Chris has delivered that over and over. He believed that buildings should be a marriage of architecture, art, design and technology and he had a fantastic ability to create spaces that are exciting, uplifting and inventive. The breadth of his work was stunning. 

Chris helped us create the Dyson Campus at Malmesbury and oversaw the restoration of our Campus at Hullavington Airfield, he helped create the concept for our Demo stores and designed the flagship stores in Paris, Oxford Street, San Francisco and Fifth Avenue, with its 50mm thick and the tallest possible one piece of glass. He conceived radical new education spaces for the Dyson Institute and the Gresham’s School STEAM building. 

The wavy roofed main building at Malmesbury achieved many firsts but having clean, rather than recirculated air, has proved itself to be perhaps the most ahead of its time; D9 with its daring structural glass; our Undergraduate Village of cross-laminated factory-built pods; the Roundhouse clubhouse, and our restoration of the vast hangars Hullavington Airfield are radical in their own way. These buildings all reflect Chris and his approach, as will the unfinished projects with which we press-on. There will be no substitute for this creative and lovely man.''

Simon Allford, RIBA President, Co-Founder and Director of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris:

“Chris was a great architect and an engaging, committed and generous man. He was very much a modern man, but he was also a true gentleman. After working with Denys Lasdun, Lord Foster, Lord Rogers and Michael Hopkins in his formative years, in 1987, aged 38, Chris set up practice with long-term collaborator Jim Eyre. Chris will be remembered for the many distinguished projects produced by his highly talented, twice Stirling Prize-winning practice, Wilkinson Eyre. Their many landmark buildings and bridges rightly earnt Chris fellowships and doctorates around the world. 

Not only an esteemed architect, Chris was also a writer (1991’s Supersheds), Royal Academician, painter, teacher and academic.

I consider myself most fortunate to have spent time with Chris and his family and to have become a good friend. So I know how his elegant warmth, enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge and life will be sorely missed not only by his wife Diana, his children Zoe and Dominic, but by their many friends. His passing is a great loss to architecture and to all those he encountered.”

Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman, Foster + Partners

''I am deeply saddened to hear of Chris Wilkinson’s death. I remember him joining Foster Associates in the 1970s as a bright and eager twenty-something, having had his early training under the careful tutelage of Denys Lasdun. His talents, both technical and artistic, shone through on projects such as the IBM Technical Park in Greenford.

Even at that early age, his talent and tenacity were clearly visible, as he went on to start his own practice in 1983, winning the Stirling Prize twice for the wonderfully innovative Magna Science Centre and the structurally eye-catching Gateshead Millennium Bridge in 2001 and 2002 respectively. Having been honoured with an OBE for his immense contribution to architecture, Chris continued to make significant creative contributions to the industry with projects such as the restrained, yet heroic Jubilee Line Extension station at Stratford and a sensitive and distinctive addition to the Portsmouth Harbour with the Mary Rose Museum.

He often remarked he saw architecture as something that was a bridge between art and science, which is evident in his buildings as well as his art. A gregarious and generous person, Chris’s loss will be felt acutely by us all.''

Nigel Hugill, Chief Executive of Developer, Urban & Civic

''Chris was a wonderful friend, mentor and soulmate for more than 30 years. An architectural lion who was so gentle and kind. Not just his family and the practice but our whole industry will feel cheated by his premature departure''

Dame Laura Lee, Maggie's Centres Chief Executive:

"I'm so sorry to hear the news about Chris, he gave so much to Maggie's and his design of Maggie's Oxford has always encapsulated exactly what Maggie's is all about, bringing together the internal space and the external landscape - completely in tune with its surroundings. Our thoughts go to Chris' family and friends.''

Stephen Feber, Magna Centre

''I employed Chris and the team for Magna - I was the fundraiser, CEO and Creative Director. I knew him quite well as we worked closely on transforming the steelworks in Rotherham into the prize-winning science centre. In retrospect a very tough feat to accomplish. He was a brilliant problem solver, a great designer and artist, and I recall very well the night at the British Museum when we beat the Eden Project to win the Stirling Prize. I said that night that the best people argue about the best things and second rate people argue about everything else. And Chris and the practice he built with Jim were undoubtedly in the category of the best.  Wilkinson Eyre got the Magna job based on the Hulme Arch in Manchester; I didn't really bother looking at anything else they'd done. He had a delightful impish and graceful intelligence. I do not doubt that the buildings he designed and inspired have made the world a better place. I loved working with him.''