Richard Rogers Architect 1933 - 2021

18 December 2021

The partners + staff at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP)

It is with deep sadness that the partners and staff of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners acknowledge the death of our colleague, friend, and founder partner Richard Rogers on Saturday 18 December.  

For the four decades and more that we have all variously shared with him, he will be remembered as a colleague and friend, who was gregarious, always completely free of status, always inclusive, always exploring and looking ahead.

A man of immense drive and charisma, he was equally a man of civility and integrity, dedicated to the art and science of architecture, of urbanism, the life of the city, of political commitment and positive social change.

His love of people, of discussion, the sharing of views, of exploring new paths and of co-operative and creative working, was reflected in the practice he founded, and which continues to espouse and develop those ideals today.

Richard lived his family and professional life as one and our thoughts and condolences are very much with his family today.

Graham Stirk, Senior Design Partner, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP)

My personal experience of Richard began in January 1983 when I first worked in his practice as a young architect, having met him as a student at the Architectural Association the previous summer. He was disarmingly charming and critically kind which was at odds with what I had expected.

Within the office I became aware of the sheer drive and range of his architectural thinking and that the dazzling architecture of his buildings and ideas was a synthesis of much wider social and political concerns. The technology was there to serve and reinforce how a building could be communicated to all with verve and joy. During these early years he seemed to value my early attempts to engage with the genesis of early ideas. These times were challenging and intellectually grueling but once an approach was established, they were the most thrilling moments of my early career. He created an environment that could challenge, expand, and develop what were incredibly naive notions. But as he said, “Naivety is an important part of creativity” and within his environment, played a key role in defining ideas and buildings that were polemic, audacious and to those who believed in him, beautiful.

Richard always believed that good architecture was not achieved by an individual but involved wider collaboration and a synthesis of many conflicting forces. Within the office I think that he was maybe being kind. All of our journeys required a simple, crucial trigger that Richard’s brilliance provided at key points in the work at that time. What makes his gift uniquely special was his increasing commitment to wider concepts of urbanism and the political mechanisms that could create better cities and environments. He was very modest in his statements that he could not draw. I believe his gift transcended this sometimes limited form of communication and allowed his beautiful, critical mind to explore all that the world presented, leading to solutions that were outrageous but could not be ignored.

He once said, “If we create buildings that are instantly liked, then we have failed.”

I can only say, thank you Richard for being who you were.

Ivan Harbour, Senior Partner, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Through Richard, as a young graduate, I learnt that architecture was about much more than the design of buildings, its social and political impacts were equally important.

He gave me the opportunity when I was very young to explore and originate unencumbered in the highly creative environment that he presided over. I am indebted to him for that trust he placed in me.

Over the subsequent 30+ years we achieved more than I ever imagined possible, practising together, learning from each other, always looking to the future, always looking to make things better. His absence is very close, but his presence remains with me.

I will never forget his wry smile, his infectious laugh, his paternal nature, and his sharp intellect. He was not an archetypical architect, but he was a unique and wonderful human being.

Lennart Grut, Senior Partner, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP)

Following Richard’s career over half a century, from when I was working on delivering the steel structure on the Pompidou Centre to joining the RRP team in ’85, has been a constant lesson in what a single human being can achieve through qualities of intellect, courage, determination and generosity of spirit.

Whether throwing himself into a street fight in Paris to protect someone getting beaten up, taking on the Reith lectures, doing the rounds of clients in Tokyo looking for work or jumping in a van to drive to Ikea to buy furniture for our small Berlin office, nothing was ever too difficult to put his body or mind to as long as it could be shared with good company, fun and, preferably, epicurean pleasures however simple. 

The clarity of the architectural principles that are the intellectual basis of the practice he co-founded; the social responsibility of the Constitutional Deed that ensures its governance; the ownership of the practice by a charitable trust not by the individual partners; the fostering of the social and inclusive spirit of the office: these are all clear reflections of his character.

His professional legacy is represented by the quality of architecture that the practice has achieved; his personal legacy, so clearly expressed in the many tributes flooding the news, is especially felt by all of us who will strive to continue in the same spirit within the practice he helped to create.

I will miss him.