12 de Noviembre de 2014
Mor David Mackay el 12/11/2014
David Mackay Hon FRIAS 1933 – 2014

David Mackay was one of the most influential British architects of the post war period. He was also one of the most charismatic and influential figures in Catalan public life. Somehow, alongside his panoply of achievements, David was also one of the nicest, most self-effacing and fundamentally decent human beings any of us had the privilege to know.

David’s activities stretched from internationally-significant masterplanning and architectural practice to teaching, writing, chairing architectural competitions and award juries and contributions to major international conferences across the globe. He was a brilliant, intuitive designer, a gentle but determined leader of multi-disciplinary teams on major projects, an advisor to senior politicians and governments and a highly regarded leader among his professional peers.

He was also a man of great learning, a voracious bookman, a writer of achievement, a passionate ambassador for his adopted Barcelona and Catalonia, both at home and on the international stage and a trusted friend to many of his fellow architects, an adoring husband and a devoted family man. His was a life of extraordinary achievement.

Born of an Irish father and an English mother in Eastbourne, Sussex on Christmas Day 1933 and trained in England, David Mackay has lived and worked in Barcelona for nearly 60 years. The practice, founded by Oriol Bohigas and Josep Martorell, in which he became a partner in 1962, MBM Arquitectes, has evolved as one of the pre-eminent architectural practices in Europe. Their work has helped to shape many cities and fundamentally influenced the evolution of European architecture and city planning.

In 1957 David married his beloved Roser Jarque who he had met when they were both tenants in the same street in Highgate, London. With characteristic understatement, he later would describe his relationship with Roser as the greatest bond of his life. It was a bond which in time resulted in six children, twelve grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Martorell, Bohigas and Mackay’s work is characterised by its simplicity of form and human scale. The urban spaces they designed are welcoming to their inhabitants and add to the quality and vibrancy of the very many towns and cities where they have worked. David Mackay’s urban design of Barcelona’s Olympic Village in 1992 and the more recent Design Museum in Barcelona are inspired additions to his adoptive city, enjoyed by literally millions of visitors each year.

In addition to his extensive architectural practice, David bravely became the first President of Amnesty International in Spain. He wrote and lectured widely and was a guest professor at Washington University, Saint Louis and Wisconsin University, Milwaukee. He was a senior advisor to the British Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott in the late 1990s. In 2004, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Plymouth.

He was also, among a plethora of other honours and awards, an Honorary Member of the Bund Deutscher Architekten, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and a loyal and supportive friend and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

David’s recent step down from MBM may have signalled a reduction in his workload and given him more time with his beloved Roser but it also marked the start of new adventures in architecture as the Honorary President of the AxA Architects for Architecture European Forum – a cause close to his heart.

Although David died only yesterday he has already received many fulsome tributes. Among them RIAS President, Iain Connelly, commented:

“David Mackay's work, as one of the pre-eminent architects of his generation, helped shape many cities and greatly influenced the evolution of European architecture and city planning. His many built projects and masterplans testify that he was an architect of consummate skill and sensitivity who was always determined that his work should serve people's needs and improve their lives.

David was an individual of huge talent and erudition which extended to philosophy, literature, art, history and social science. All this was allied to personal humility and gentle self-deprecation. He was undoubtedly a great architect, but more importantly, a thoroughly decent human being and someone it was a great privilege to know.”

David’s old friend, the landscape architect Professor Brian Evans, said:

“In 1990 I sought out David’s leadership and mentoring for a project my practice was working on. I soon discovered he was much more than the brilliant architect I had expected. He was gentle, kind, unassuming and supportive. Since then, his wisdom, insight and enduring joy in the grit, chance and reality of great cities have fundamentally influenced my practice and my teaching. His guiding hand has helped steer my career and the company of David, Roser and their family have been among the highlights of my life. My wife Sue, who is also a landscape architect, has, like me, benefited from David’s good counsel and the enduring friendship of David, Roser and their family.”
Another of David’s good friends, the RIBA Past President and now Mayor of the great City of Bristol in the south-west of England, George Ferguson, also asked me to pass on his condolences. On hearing the news he commented:

“It was a real honour to know David and to work with him. He was one of my greatest architect and urbanist heroes. He inspires what I do.”

Most of you here today will be well aware that David was Anglo-Irish. Yet his Scottish sounding name, his affection for Scotland and the many links he forged there have resulted in the often repeated error that David was Scottish. He never refuted this and indeed took some pleasure in this additional national identity which augmented his English, Irish and Catalan roots. And believe me, all of Scotland was delighted to lay claim to David Mackay.

At the end of his detailed and intimate architectural autobiography, A Life in Cities, David summed up his journey as follows:

“For me the borders between the rich diversity of European cultures are no longer defensive frontiers but exciting portents of discovery. My heritage runs from Ireland to Catalonia, passing through the various cities of Europe. On my way through three-quarters of a century of time and many places, I have gained a mind and spirit untrammelled by narrow certainties, constantly open to exploration and the undoubted privilege of always continuing to question.”

David had the poetic spirit of the true architect. His books, A Life in Cities and On Life and Architecture, testify to the richness of his life in architecture and the profound insights he achieved. His built projects, many masterplans, publications and architectural teaching are a legacy which will continue to benefit mankind now and in future generations.

He will be forever missed.

Neil Baxter, Hon FRIAS
Secretary and Treasurer of The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland




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