Edward “Ted” Cullinan, founder of London firm Cullinan Studio, has passed away aged 88. The RIBA Gold Medalist died in his sleep yesterday, Monday, November 11.
The British architect was born in Islington, London, in 1931 and started eponymous practice, Edward Cullinan Architects (later Cullinan Studio) in 1965.
After studying in the U.K. and U.S. at the Architectural Association and the University of California at Berkeley, he designed buildings across the U.K. in his own name after working Denys Lasdun on ziggurat-shaped student housing at the University of East Anglia.
For his first project, Cullinan spent a year as a student working with a local builder to restore the decommissioned 19th-century Belle Tout lighthouse in East Sussex. The project was finished in 1956 and today you can rent it out for a holiday—worth it for the views across the South Downs alone.
Other early buildings also endure, like the British Olivetti headquarters in Derby (1971) which Cullinan got the job for after being recommended by James Stirling. “Stylish and expandable” and “immediately identifiable by its big yellow plastic-clad roof” Nikolaus Pevsner’s co-editor Elizabeth Williamson once remarked, before adding her fears over the building’s maintenance. Almost 50 years since it opened and after the original tenants departed, the building has been refurbished and reincarnated as the East Midlands Logistics Center, with Stirling’s influence still very much present.
Cullinan’s work was also a big part of my childhood. His studio’s Charles Cryer Theatre in Carshalton, South London, was—and arguably still is—the area’s most architecturally ambitious piece of modern architecture in the area. As a former member of the council’s technical office told me, Cullinan was given a graphic account of what activities can take place in public toilets by the council’s chief electrical engineer as the theater was under construction in the early ’90s. “That told him!” the engineer told the rest of the office, who had all been listening in, as he put the phone down. (It was all in good spirits, I’m told).
Other notable buildings from Cullinan include the Bartholomew Villas in London; the Grade II-listed (the U.K. equivalent of having landmark status) RMC headquarters in Surrey; the Downland Gridshell, West Sussex; and the Newcastle Maggie’s Center (all featured in the above image gallery).
Beyond practicing as an architect, Cullinan taught at the University of Nottingham, the Bartlett, Sheffield University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Edinburgh. Cullinan was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2008.
“I’ve never seen anyone hold a room quite like Ted did …when he spoke, everyone listened,” a former colleague told AN.
In a statement released today, the practice said:
“The inspirational founder of our practice was a true pathfinder for all architects. Ted was designing for climate change 60 years ago with a holistic vision for the practice of architecture that he described as a social act. His legacy is in the buildings and places he transformed, in his model of architectural practice, but perhaps most powerfully in the thousands of people he taught and inspired throughout his long life. We share our deepest sympathies with his family and all his many friends.”