St Bride's: News

Bryan Avery Memorial

Bryan Avery Memorial

Bryan Robert Avery MBE
1944 – 2017

Download Order of Service (pdf)

On Friday 29th September, 2017, at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Bryan Avery MBE was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.

OPENING

The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered the opening:-

It is our privilege this morning to be hosting a service in which we shall honour the memory and celebrate the life of Bryan Avery: one of the outstanding, and award-winning architects of his generation, whose energy and creativity were respected and admired by all in his field.

Alongside his professional skill and expertise, Bryan was also a wonderful human being: a man of great wisdom and kindness, whose loss will be keenly felt by all who knew him. And it is testimony to the affection that Bryan inspired in those who knew him, that we are joined today by guests who have travelled from as far afield as Germany, France, and Canada to be here. It is wonderful to have you with us, and I am sure that Bryan would have loved the fact that you are here.

Loving God, we remember before you this day with thanksgiving, Bryan: a loving and much loved husband, father, colleague and friend.

We give thanks for a man who excelled in the field of architecture; we give thanks for his intelligence, his imagination and his creativity. For his remarkable gifts as an artist draughtsman; for the outstanding legacy that he leaves behind him.

We remember, too, a man with a great love of nature, and walking. A man who delighted in travel. A man of modesty, integrity, and kindness, with a wonderful sense of humour.

We give thanks for a man with a real gift for friendship, who formed bonds of warmth and affection with those from all walks of life. We give thanks for his greatness of heart, and for the warmth of his smile.

Support us, O Lord, all the day long of this troublous life,
Until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes;
The busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over
and our work is done.
Then, Lord, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging,
a holy rest, and peace at the last. In Jesus name we pray.

Amen.

ADDRESSES

Warren Whyte, former Project Director & Architect with Avery Associates (1997 – 2017)

Read text...

I have been fortunate enough to have known Bryan Avery for the last 20 years, but it is hard to do justice to that friendship in a few minutes. The way he informed my architectural career will be shared with the many who passed through Avery Associates; Bryan’s unique philosophy of architecture has influenced a new generation to become successful architects and to develop their own practices. When I joined Avery Associates in the summer of 1997, it was at one of the busiest points in the practice’s history, and certainly a very memorable time.

Work was in progress on the exciting Royal Academy of Dramatic Art theatre project, squeezed into the extraordinarily tight Gower Street site. There was a long design development period to determine the form of the performance space. Richard Attenborough was one of the main advisors on the client’s team, and when a decision about the best theatre design had to be made, Bryan had his own vision but the theatre consultants had another. So Bryan came up with three cardboard models representing three different visions, only one of which was his own. Lord Attenborough asked the actor Alan Rickman to have a look at the models to decide which he thought would be best. Alan came to our office, which of course got everyone excited. He looked at the three models for a couple of minutes and then pointed to one model saying ’this one is hot' and to another model saying ’this one is cool'. Not sure if hot or cool was best, Bryan checked with him and to his delight Alan had chosen Bryan’s vision as the hot and preferred model.

So Bryan’s team for RADA, a talented group including Amanda Henderson, Garry Reynolds and Phil Coffey, started work on the project in earnest. Much to my wife’s annoyance, I got to briefly meet Alan Rickman at an event at RADA some years later, and I was genuinely surprised that he really did have a wonderful voice offscreen. After Bryan met Gabby in 1999, he invited her out for dinner, but en-route to the restaurant he made a small detour to the building site of RADA. Wearing a far too big hard hat - safety first! - she received her first tour of RADA. I guess she knew what she was letting herself in for right from the start.

Alongside the RADA project, the detail design of the British Film Institute’s IMAX Cinema in Waterloo for the British Film Institute was also in full stream during 1997 and ‘98. As was the case with so many of Bryan’s commissions, it was the most complex of sites in the middle of a roundabout, surrounded by busy road traffic and rumbling trains, and sat on top of a raft of underground infrastructure! The steeply raked auditorium provided the largest screen in Britain, and I remember the challenges of faxes coming through from IMAX’s Canadian offices at all hours to try and coordinate the precise technical requirements for the IMAX system, and incorporating them into the pure circular plan of the building. I particularly recall the ever-patient John Neville-Jones, Marcus Wilshere and Matt Cartwright amongst others who somehow managed to turn the incredibly rigorous geometry into sets of tender and construction documents!

Supporting the architectural staff, the long service of Bryan’s excellent gatekeeper Jenny Witchell enabled him to have time to create his concepts and draw detail sketches uninterrupted in his then smoke-filled office.

Most people will know the IMAX for the crisply detailed glazed drum which created a new landmark for Waterloo, and Bryan was delighted when Sir Howard Hodgkin created the first artwork for the 360 degree elevation. It was always a huge regret to him when the IMAX turned the public art into London’s largest advertising hoarding. Bryan’s friend Takashi has created an Ikebana flower arrangement in the shape of the IMAX, located at the rear of the church today.

Bryan was always keen to remind the team about his high expectations for attention to detail, especially when it came to his love of geometry. Many a wall or door was briefly moved during detail design coordination to suit another consultant’s suggestion, only for it to be swiftly moved back if it impinged on an important element of the project’s composition. I recall one incident where we had a bit of an altercation over a couple of millimetres causing a lack of perfect symmetry – both of us knowing that on site it would not really matter, but Bryan’s rigour on detail design and pure geometry was literally down to the last millimetre!

One of the challenging tasks for a lucky year out student was to be asked to undertake the annual Christmas Card, a tradition that gave Bryan an opportunity to refine his thoughts on the Golden Section and the relationship to the double square that ran through so much of his thinking. Not to mention that attention to detail down to the very last millimetre!

Christmas 1997 will be memorable for many of us: the office trip to Paris was quite an occasion - celebrating a hard but successful year on the IMAX and RADA projects – and it happened to precede my wedding by a few days, so turned into my office stag do! A little architecture, good food, great drink followed by the thentraditional cigar.

Bryan's studio was always about more than delivering thoughtful architecture to enlightened clients: he could visualise an architecture that went beyond style, he endeavoured to create "delight". His consideration of how many of the building’s users would experience the space was very important, from both an architectural and usability perspective.

To many clients, a bespoke architectural response to a tricky site or brief is the only answer, but many clients do not allow the time or have the inclination to test out ideas, or fear the “risk-taking”, which was a disappointment on several exciting proposals over the years. For those who understood what Bryan offered, they got a fabulous result, with "delight" thrown in: such as RADA's dramatic cleft that allowed the midsummer shaft of sunlight to fall on the George Bernard Shaw statue (and the jolly soirées to accompany the phenomenon).

Bryan was particularly proud of the Repton School Theatre in Derbyshire, a gem of a project, drawing on much of the success of the RADA theatre, not only delivered on time and on budget, but with panache and detailing that belied the challenging brief, context and budget. Bryan, always thinking of ways to connect people, even put the teachers at Repton in touch with staff at RADA.

Bryan's rigorous approach to design grew out of a cornucopia of influences and precedents, from architectural masters such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier to classical exemplars such as Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli or this wonderful church we are in today by Wren. Not only architecture though – Bryan was forever sketching the natural world and high-tech engineering; from the New Forest and Solent forts spotted during his long walks, to the detailing of military aircraft and shipping.

Many of Bryan's colleagues will recall the wide-ranging conversations over a pint or three in the CASK, his local pub in Pimlico, and it was during these times that one got to know him a little better; from his early road trip days in the United States and his enjoyment in experiencing Frank Lloyd Wright for the first time, to his observations and love for the Greek Islands. If you were lucky, the conversation would develop over fish and chips in his favourite local restaurant... and topics from the planning system, to future travel plans, to national politics, to the RIBA and quality of architectural teaching would be energetically debated.

Over the last few years, the office has been lucky to have Anthony Carlile, providing Bryan with a right-hand man. This has been so important, allowing Bryan time to synthesise his architectural philosophy into something he called the Seven Cs. Bryan thoroughly enjoyed his international lectures, giving the last one only in March this year at the McGill University in Montreal, inspiring the next generation of architectural students with his design theory: ideas such as Wilderness City still, in my view, have significant resonance in the current debate on the country’s housing challenge.

Incidentally, his 2011 book Fragments of Wilderness City is still available on Amazon if you never got around to getting a copy when it was published. I recall the agonising debates on the page layouts and formatting, every single one checked by Bryan for adherence to the Golden Section and the setting out grid! It also features an introduction by Richard Weston, a good friend to Bryan over the years, providing a sounding board and advice.

Bryan was one of the most innovative and thought-provoking architects of his generation, and it was fabulous news when he was awarded the MBE for services to architecture in 2015. One can imagine the trepidation and nervousness when he saw that Prince Charles would be undertaking the ceremony, given the Prince’s previous history with modern architecture. When it came to Bryan’s presentation, Prince Charles asked him if he was still practising architecture. Bryan responded that yes, he was still practising and that he was still getting better at it - after which there was a right royal guffaw! I know that Bryan was rightly proud of that recognition. Bryan – so accurately called the “thinking man’s architect” in one of your obituaries – I will miss our working together, our conversations, pints and debates. The two Millennium Product Awards you received, were described as being awarded for "imagination, ingenuity and inspiration" as well as "innovation, creativity and design": nothing could be more apt.

Bryan; your profession, your friends and your family will deeply miss you.

Nicholas Barter, former Director of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)

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I wish I could take the credit for inviting Bryan to be RADA’s architect but that honour must belong to Richard Attenborough, as RADA’s Chairman for more than twenty years and Oliver Neville, my predecessor as Principal of the Academy.

I first met Bryan when RADA was contemplating taking over the old power station premises in Shoreditch which later became the Circus School – now happily a constituent school of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, of which RADA was a Founder Member.

Working with Bryan was from the beginning an inspiring and, if I am totally honest, an exhausting experience. Bryan’ s mind worked way beyond the confines of just putting up a new building and within a very short time of knowing him we had discussed ‘the golden section’, Egyptian pyramids, sacred geometry and Japanese temples and so many other topics of art and life.

Soon he had given me book, of which I had never read nor heard: The Shape of Time by George Kubler. If I may quote: “ Every important work of art can be regarded both as an historical event and as a hard- won solution to some problem”.

And recreating RADA on that site in Gower St was a very special problem.

Very shortly after joining the staff of the Academy, I was walking down Chenies St, at turning off RADA’s traditional home in Gower St and noticed that the old Jaeger garment factory was for sale. A new avenue opened up for an annexe to the Academy so close by and Bryan began the conversion of that building to house teaching rooms, the RADA refectory and the first real library and study space for students.

Shortly both numbers 20 and 22 Chenies street were also acquired and just recently my dream of RADA in Chenies St has come true with the purchase of the old Drill Hall, Camden’s flagship home for Disability and the Arts.

With the advent of the National Lottery, large sums from the Arts Council for reconfiguring arts provision, that historical moment had arrived but the’ problem to be hard-won’ was to meld together the original Gower St house, to which Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the actor/ manager, founder of RADA, had moved his school when it outgrew the classes in his office, in the dome of His Majesty’s Theatre in the Haymarket and the Malet St building in which were situated the Vanbrugh Theatre and the Studio Theatre, and to link them to the GBS Theatre in Gower St.

It was a prodigious challenge. Every space had to be bespoke – the voice teachers required a space which was warm and humid but ten minutes later the movement teacher s required the same space that was cool and dry –naturally. Bryan listened, every teacher had another opinion to offer. Bryan embedded himself in the day to day work of the Academy but at the same time he had his own very sure opinions and was not slow to express them.

As everyone here today knows – to build is to form a team: theatre consultant, project managers, engineers – so many people, so many experts in their field and a theatre school is a family, a disputatious, argumentative family and both these groups are passionate about their craft, about their aims and ambitions.

Warren has spoken about the heart of the Academy – the Vanbrugh Theatre and the momentous visit of Alan Rickman to look at different options for that space. But there was an even more momentous occasion when we gathered in the temporary Council Room with Attenborough, Rickman, Tony Hopkins, Peter Barkworth, Richard Briers, Sylvia Syms, Michael Attenborough, Ralph Fiennes – Bryan and our theatre consultant - to view two very different and distinctive models of what they key component of the new RADA might be. The passions ran high, the argument was fierce but ultimately agreement was reached and one of the most innovative, flexible and exciting new theatre in Britain, Bryan’s theatre space was agreed on. Perhaps most innovative was the reversal of the usual practice of trying to make the actors feel as close to their audience as possible. To train students to reach their audience the feeling from the stage required a reaching out by the actors in training to draw the audience in to the world of the play.

Bryan had to accommodate a new version of the GBS Theatre, a studio theatre (now “The Guilgud”) to give students the feel of a Fringe venue where they might find themselves working early in their career.

RADA’s history had to be included, so many spaces now covered with examples of RADA’s glorious past and former students.

The foyer of RADA took no fewer than thirteen models to create a cafe, with some inspiration from a field trip to a dance school in Amsterdam, which was a ‘cabaret theatre in its own right.

And at its centre was one of Bryan’s most extraordinary and creative touches – at noon on midsummer’s day the sun strikes through the glass in the cleft of the foyer and falls on the dramatic Topolski bust of George Bernard Shaw, without whose gift of the royalties from his plays RADA would no longer be in existence.

Bryan’s remarkable capacity to take in the unique atmosphere and needs of such a strange being as a drama school was his genius and he was in himself a theatrical character. He understood deeply the world of the theatre.


READINGS

Ian Blackburn, former Project Director, Royal Festival Hall read Wisdom 4: 7-15

Read text...

7 But though the righteous be prevented with death, yet shall he be in rest.

8 For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by number of years.

9 But wisdom is the gray hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age.

10 He pleased God, and was beloved of him: so that living among sinners he was translated.

11 Yea speedily was he taken away, lest that wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul.

12 For the bewitching of naughtiness doth obscure things that are honest; and the wandering of concupiscence doth undermine the simple mind.

13 He, being made perfect in a short time, fulfilled a long time:

14 For his soul pleased the Lord: therefore hasted he to take him away from among the wicked.

15 This the people saw, and understood it not, neither laid they up this in their minds, That his grace and mercy is with his saints, and that he hath respect unto his chosen.

Prof Richard Weston read From Mise au point, the final testament of Le Corbusier

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From Mise au point, the final testament of Le Corbusier written in July 1965 a few weeks before his death.

Architects worthy of their vocation are identified with their work. The simple, true, propelling force of work. This force must rise up from physics, from imagination, from invention, courage and risk. It is intense only when one takes risks. He risks it all: all his being, all his thought, his money, his family, and his job. He curses no-one, except the obstacles themselves, the regulations, the craftiness of the ambitious, the dirty tricks of business people... He doesn’t think of the impression he makes, but only of what is facing him: his work.

Nothing is transmissible except thought, the noble fruit of our labour. This thought may or may not triumph over fate in the hereafter, and perhaps it will assume a different, unforeseeable dimension.

The professional man, unbending like the horizon of the sea, ought to be a measuring instrument able to serve as a builder’s level, as a datum line in the midst of flux and mobility. This is his social role. This role demands that he be clear-sighted. The moral: not to give a damn for honours, but to rely on oneself, to act in accordance with one’s own conscience. It is not by playing the hero that one is able to act, able to undertake tasks and to realise them. All this happens inside the head, formulating itself, passing through an embryonic stage, little by little in the course of a lifetime that flies by in a vertigo, whose end one reaches without even realising it.

Peter Wynne-Rees read A selection from Frank Lloyd Wright by Frank Lloyd Wright

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As friends, Bryan and I agreed on many things and disagreed on many more. We agreed that Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the world’s greatest architects. Bryan thought he was the greatest American architect, but I knew that he was the greatest Welsh architect. Frank was raised in the USA by Anna, his formidable Welsh mother, largely within a single parent family. In his early childhood, she decided that Frank would become an architect and, since the word of a Welsh mother is the "word of the almighty”, that is what he became. As a Welsh/American architect Frank did not suffer from the English Disease of “false modesty”. With a number of left-leaning friends he found himself arraigned before the McCarthy hearings. Having taken the witness stand, he was sworn-in and asked to state his name and occupation. He replied, ‘I am Frank Lloyd Wright - the greatest living architect’. When challenged on why he had made such a statement he said, ‘because I am under oath’. It is not easy to be a genius, but in tribute to Bryan’s architectural genius I offer the following passage from Frank’s modestly titled book, “A Testament”:

“Philosophy is to the mind of the architect as eyesight to his steps. The Term 'genius' when applied to him simply means a man who understands what others only know about. A poet, artist or architect, necessarily 'understands' in this sense and is likely, if not careful, to have the term 'genius' applied to him; in which case he will no longer be thought human, trustworthy or companionable.

Whatever may be his medium of expression he utters truth with manifest beauty of thought. If he is an architect, his building is natural. In him, philosophy and genius live by each other, but the combination is subject to popular suspicion and appellation 'genius' likely to settle him--so far as the public is concerned.”

Gaby Avery read His light Shines On by Gaby Avery

Read text...

Bryan leaves behind a light
That will never fade or dim
It’s kept bright by the legacy he’s left behind
And the memories we have of him.

It can warm us like a candle’s glow
Inspire us and bring comfort, too
And no matter where you go you’ll find
He smiles on you.

And in darker times, remember
In our hearts the light is strong
So every time you think of him
Let his memory shine on.

MUSIC

The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-

If ye love me - Tallis

Panis angelicus - Franck

Ave verum - Elgar

So long, Frank Lloyd Wright - Simon arr. Jones

Angel - McLachlan arr. Jordan

Salut d'Amour - Elgar (Dulcinea String Quartet)

Hymns:

All Things Bright And Beautiful

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Jerusalem

OBITUARIES & COMMENT

Guardian

The Architects' Journal

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