One of the most talented and influential British architects of his generation, Edward Cullinan has died at the age of 88


Portrait photo
Simon Warren

Edward Cullinan, who has died at the age of 88, was among the most respected and influential British architects of the post-war era. Recipient of the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 2008, he had previously held the distinction of being the most nominated but unsuccessful candidate in the history of the award – ‘Ted’ was a lifelong rebel who wouldn’t play up to the architectural, or indeed any establishment. He didn’t suffer fools but he was loyal to friends and devoted to his family, and he inspired great loyalty and affection in return – he still lived in the modest but influential house he had self-built with friends over two years of weekends in the mid-1960s in Camden. His legacy is assured, however, not only through a wealth of remarkable buildings that followed that house, but in the diaspora of architects who worked with him over a 60-year period.

Cullinan was the first to acknowledge that he had a privileged upbringing. He was schooled at Ampleforth, and studied architecture at Queen’s College, Cambridge, the Architectural Association, and the University of California before working for Denys Lasdun. In 1956, while still a student, he spent a formative year working with a builder to restore the Bell Tout Lighthouse in Sussex. His experience at Lasdun’s office led him to set up his own office in 1959, later founding the co-operative practice of Edward Cullinan Architects in 1965, whose ‘alumni’ include Sunand Prasad, Julyan Wickham, Brendan Woods, Tchaik Chassay, Julian Bicknell, Phil Tabor, Greg Penoyre, Alan Short and Robin Nicholson, who is now senior partner at the Cullinan Studio, and many others.


Cullinan’s sketch section of Lambeth Health Centre

Notable buildings include Minster Lovell Conference Centre (1969), Olivetti branch offices in Belfast, Derby, Dundee and Carlisle (1972), Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre (1992), the Weald and Downland Gridshell (2002), the Centre for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge (2003), and Fitzwilliam College library in Cambridge (2010). Cullinan lectured and taught widely, and held visiting professorships at the University of Nottingham, The Bartlett, Sheffield University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Edinburgh.

Cullinan Studio issued the following notice on 12 November: “The news that Ted Cullinan passed away in his sleep on Monday is hard for us to take in. 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.”