Aaron Evans (1946 - 2012)
Aaron Evans (1946 - 2012)
Managing Director, Aaron Evans Architects Ltd.
When I last saw Aaron Evans, just before Christmas, he was looking forward with much excitement to the architectural challenges that lay ahead of us in the forthcoming year. Recently described to me as perhaps ‘the greatest contributor to architecture in Bath in the last 100 years,’ Aaron sadly passed away on 26th December 2012 at the age of 66.
Born in 1946 in the Rhondda Valley Aaron grew up an only child in a bleak, post-war Wales. After training in Cardiff at the Welsh School of Architecture and determined to broaden his horizons Aaron moved to London where he worked for T P Bennett and Partners (1971-72) and A V Peel Chartered Architect (1972-74). It is in London perhaps that his growing interest in both modernism and conservation were fuelled. By the mid 1970s, during a double dip recession, he had moved to Bath and was working from his home in Widcombe as a freelance architect. Anticipating this self-employment would last only 6 months his intention to find a ‘proper job’ working for a practice was soon set aside as enquiries for restoration and conversion work were received.
He formally set up the practice in 1978 taking on Richard Neville a year later as his first (and still serving) employee. Within two years he had established an office in Pierrepont Street and was quickly earning a reputation as a skilful practitioner. He secured a number of important commissions, including the conversion of the Countess of Huntingdon Chapel (1986), (now the Building of Bath Museum) and the grant funded restoration of St Anne’s Court (1987) both of which were presented with Civic Trust Awards. This reputation for sensitive restoration and imaginative, adaptive reuse became one of the cornerstones of the practice.
During this period and in parallel to his conservation based work, the completion of the Renault Volvo dealership in 1986 identified the practice as one capable of delivering good quality, modern architecture within the historic context of Bath although Aaron later joked that, whilst the building had been nominated for an award the Civic Trust were perhaps not yet ready to give one to a motor dealership!
A charismatic professional respected by his peers, clients and the planners alike he became a well known local figure becoming Chairman of the Bath Architects’ Group (1991–93), Co-Chairman of the Architecture and Planning Committee, RIBA Bristol (1993) and Chairman of the Conservation Area Advisory Committee to Bath City Council from 1993-96.
Under his leadership the practice has gone on to deliver some of the most important and recognisable new buildings in the City. The Seven Dials redevelopment (1991) is described by Michael Forsyth in the Pevsner guide to Bath as ‘a successful essay in contextual classicism’ but perhaps Aaron’s favourite project was the Kingsmead Odeon cinema development, the first multiplex cinema in a World Heritage site (2004), a fusion of his twin passions for architecture and film. An annual sponsor of the Bath Film Festival, his love and knowledge of film and the inspiration he drew from it was legendary and he spoke and published several articles and essays on Bath’s built cinematic history.
Outside of Bath, in Calne, Wiltshire, he played a key role in the ‘Calne Project’ group fighting tirelessly for ten years to realise the Town Centre and Millennium Library development, a scheme that realigned a river and reinvigorated a fading market town. Opened by Her Majesty the Queen it was given the prestigious national British Urban Regeneration Award for Best Practice in Regeneration in 2003. In Trowbridge he created a flamboyant canopy for a new Police Station that was cited by the planners as an exemplar in contemporary design within the conservation area.
Throughout his career Aaron maintained a keen interest in education and obtained a Post Graduate Certificate in Education in 1978. From 1994 until recently he lectured on a part time basis at the University of Bath in Practice Management and Law and acted as an RIBA Part III External Examiner at a number of schools of architecture including the University of Bath, Oxford Brookes and the Bartlett in London.
In 2002 he was appointed Advisor to the Education and Practice Group of the ARB and in the same year was elected as an RIBA Regional Councillor before becoming Vice President of Membership and the Regions in 2003 where he worked developing the regional network and membership. During this six-year service with the RIBA he served alongside Past RIBA President George Ferguson who said of Aaron:
'Bath loses one of its most outstanding architects but he leaves behind him a great legacy in terms of family, practice and of some of the West Country's best architecture.'
A skilled draughtsman, water colourist and illustrator this passion was brought to life in his 'pothead' caryatid canopy support at the Natural Theatre Headquarters, Widcombe Institute in Bath, (1997), carved by a local stone masonry student from a full size hand drawing.
An eloquent speaker and accomplished writer he was not afraid to express his views on architecture, planning or politics and was always ready to take up the challenge not shying away from controversy. A strong advocate for the protection of 'function' as well as 'title' for architects Aaron firmly believed that the profession was best placed to design the quality of built environment we should all demand. He hated mediocrity and was driven to raise the bar for architecture in Bath, firmly believing that good design need not be the sole remit of those he dubbed the 'star-chitects'.
But his influence goes beyond the buildings he created. I knew and worked alongside Aaron for 19 years and his drive and enthusiasm never failed to impress. As the Principal of Aaron Evans Architects he was an inspirational colleague and was responsible for launching the careers of many architects practising in Bath and the region today. Held in high regard by all those who knew him, once met, never forgotten; he leaves behind a 35-year architectural legacy that will endure.
He is survived by his wife Suzanne, his two daughters Sarah and Hannah and his four grandchildren.
Kevin Murphy RIBA
Aaron Evans Architects Ltd.
Bristol Mayoral Debate: Construction, Built Environment, Public Realm
9 November, Arnolfini, Bristol
Over 200 delegates from the built environment sector, construction industry, local community groups and the general public attended a debate with eight of the Bristol mayoral candidates standing for election on 15 November. Listen to the full debate here and following the election, speak to the new mayor. See images from the event here…
Olympics British Business Pavilion event at Weymouth
In a new local relationship, the central and South West RIBA teams worked with UKTI and the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership on the Business Pavilion 'Infrastructure and Environment' day at Weymouth College as part of the Olympic celebrations on 8 August. The event brought together high profile built environment and low carbon sector business people for a series of forum style sessions and b2b networking, followed by viewing of Olympic sailing events off the Dorset coast. RIBA also had a Helpdesk available to offer advice and information on the work undertaken by the Institute. More...
Comment from the Chair: Richard White, RIBA South West
'From 15 – 24 June we ran our first annual architecture festival where we celebrated the art and science of the profession with the 'Love Architecture' theme. Events staged ranged from beach sand-castle competitions, cycle rides and a variety of lectures and building visits, all to promote the role of our profession in the community.
We endeavour to demonstrate our commitment to providing a better environment for us all to live, work and play. An environment that is safe, energy efficient and comfortable reflecting all the values of society that are so dear to us.
As a profession, we are administered by the state via the registration board that controls the education standards, ethical standards etc, all as a method of ensuring that our clients can be assured of our best endeavours to meet the aims and objectives as described.
It is somewhat curious that a few years ago when we had the 'bonfire of the quangos', it was mooted that the registration role be undertaken within the Institute’s structure as a cost-saving/efficiency measure. This concept was rejected on the grounds that clients deserve an independent protection of the profession.
As a general statistic, only some 10% or so of all planning applications are authored by a registered professional architect. Is it not time then that all who employ agents to design their buildings, extensions and out-houses have the comfort of an equal status of protection from those who provide the service?
Our clients deserve the comfort of higher ethical standards that registration gives and that all the professional names and terminology associated with the design of buildings be protected.'