Beverly Bernstein, 1939-2011
Reforming Registrar at The Architectural Association School, co-founder of Circle 33 Housing Trust, and ‘Queen of the Islands’ development planner.
Beverly Bernstein, who died on 22 December 2011, came to London from New York with her husband, David, in 1964 intending to spend a year or so here. Instead they stayed and made significant contributions to architectural education, social housing and development planning in both the UK and overseas.
Her appointment in her early twenties to the role of Senior Registrar at the Architectural Association School of Architecture coincided with the end of a turbulent period in the AA’s history which stabilised during the interim Principalship of Professor Otto Koenigsberger of the AA’s Tropical School. She became part of the selection process for the new principal, John Lloyd, and a lifelong friend of Otto.
John Lloyd joined the AA from Ghana and the radical rehousing project recreating communities displaced by the Volta dam which he oversaw as the Dean of the Architecture and Engineering Faculty of the University of Kumasi. He was determined to develop at the AA the effective multi-disciplinary educational processes they had pioneered. These were eagerly accepted by the AA students and faculty but less so by the architectural educational establishment elsewhere. But the AA is a private college founded by students in 1847 to help students teach each other so these concepts had been accepted for over a century; that self-regulating students work on live projects and employ their own tutors on limited term contracts. This revolutionised UK architectural education.
Beverly was the right person for the new registrar’s role, combining creative management with sound financial sense and the ability to form a young, responsive and fun-loving administrative team who worked with the projects groups, whilst also ensuring that they were able to gain their professional qualifications simultaneously. This process was studied with great interest as the London and Manchester Business Schools were formed. Her reform of the AA’s organisation was tested both when negotiations went on for two years on the merger of the AA School with Imperial College and when they failed, as the AA continued its independent path.
In 1970 she left the AA to follow her development planning interests, working with both Colin Buchanan & Partners and Land Use Consultants. By chance rather than design she specialised in the development planning of islands and had success in the Seychelles, Malta and the Channel Islands and, curiously, Saudi Arabia. She edited Habitat International, Housing Review and The Works of Charles Abrams. Together with David Bernstein and David Levitt, she had a significant effect on social housing, helping to create the modern housing association movement and, in 1968, Circle 33 Housing Trust which has become the very successful Circle Anglia Housing Association.
Beverly Bernstein was born Beverly Joan Liden in New York in 1939, the daughter of an executive of A&P Stores. She read labour economics at Cornell and as an indication of her diverse interests studied a subsidiary in European literature under Vladimir Nabakov. She became an economic researcher for the US Conference Board and then the British Institute of Management in London. She was awarded an MPhil in Town Planning from University College, London in 1974 and became a British subject in 1988. In retirement she needed her tennis playing prowess to counter the efforts of being a restaurant critic of the Hampstead & Highgate Express.
Professor Bob Garratt