Basic Biographical Details

Name: Stirrat Andrew William Johnson-Marshall
Designation: Architect
Born: 19 February 1912
Died: 16 December 1981
Bio Notes: Stirrat Andrew William Johnson-Marshall was born on 19 February 1912 in India, the elder son of Felix William Norman Johnson-Marshall, a civil servant of Scottish descent who administered the salt trade, and his wife Kate Jane Little. Since his father worked abroad in India and Iraq, he boarded at the Queen Elizabeth School at Kirkby Lonsdale where he excelled at sport, being captain of cricket and rugby, and was head boy.

From 1930-35 he studied architecture at the University of Liverpool. He passed the final exam in June 1935 and was awarded a First Class honours degree. As a student Johnson-Marshall was influenced by the teachings of Walter Gropius who visited Liverpool during this time. During the summer of 1934 he worked as an assistant with Mercalf & Metcalf and from August 1935 he worked as an assistant in the Architect's Department in the Borough of Willsden and later at the Isle of Ely. He was elected ARIBA in 1936, his proposers being Lionel B Budden, Leonard Holcombe Bucknell and Gilbert Henry Lovegrove. The following year he married Joan Mary Brighouse, whom had had met when she was a fellow student in the school of Architecture at Liverpool. Her father was an architect and he had worked for him during his summer holidays. The couple had three sons (his second son died young) and a daughter.

His career was interrupted by the Second World War during which he served with the Royal Engineers, latterly in Singapore from which he narrowly escaped through his own initiative the night before its capitulation. He returned to England and was posted to the camouflage development and training centre at Farnham Castle. He worked on the design and construction of decoy tanks and guns, from which he learnt much about the process of designing and manufacturing a new product which was to have a lasting effect on him and remained fundamental to his hope of a revitalised building industry.

From 1945-48 he worked as Deputy County Architect with Hertfordshire County Council, serving under the leadership of C H Aslin. With the support of a far-sighted education officer and a number of enterprising industrialists, Hertfordshire became the pioneer in the design and production of prefabricated school buildings which were evolved into efficient and elegant structures which could be adapted to many different situations. They were able to meet the need to construct a large number new schools in the post-war period far faster than traditional building methods would have allowed. The Hertfordshire schools attained world-wide fame. Johnson-Marshall was the driving force behind this initiative.

In 1948 Johnson-Marshall was invited to take the post of Chief Architect in the Ministry of Education. His experience in Hertfordshire was made available to other local authorities. The Ministry became an influential centre for research and innovation in the relationship of school building to educational methods. He established an outstanding development team which explored new problems in practical projects. In 1954 he was awarded the CBE.

However he moved away from the public sector in 1956 when he went into private practice in partnership with Sir Robert Matthew as Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall (in 1961 becoming Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall & Partners) – known as RMJM. Together they built up a practice which achieved high standards in design as well as efficiency. However the two men were very different and the two offices, in London and in Edinburgh, were run virtually separately for a number of years. Johnson-Marshall was in charge of the London office. He pursued his ideal of a better way of building through prefabrication. Among the projects in which Johnson-Marshall was personally involved and in which were the universities of York (where the earlier buildings were based on a modified version of the CLASP system) and of Bath as well as the Commonwealth institute and Central Lancashire New Town. He was elected FRIBA in April 1964, his proposers being Robert Matthew, Peter Arthur Newnham and Maurice William Lee. He was knighted in 1971. He retired from Sir Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall & Partners in 1978 and moved to Gloucestershire but continued to have a small local practice in Bristol.

In the 1950s Johnson-Marshall championed the cause of public architect members of the RIBA to make the institute into a socially concerned body which worked to improve the competence and political influence of the profession. He later served on the council and was vice-president in 1964-65.

As a person he was generous and modest but this disguised a ruthless determination to get done what he believed it was right to do. He believed that the interaction between buildings and people such as light, colour, sound, control of temperature and air movement was all important. The needs of the client were paramount and often he quoted the painter Fernand Léger when he said 'Architecture is not an art. It's a natural function of the social order'.

Johnson-Marshall died on 16 December 1981 in his Bristol office.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 5Curtis Hill, Hillesley, Gloucestershire, EnglandPrivate 1981 
Item 2 of 5Cloudsway/22, New Road, Digswell, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, EnglandPrivate1936 *  
Item 3 of 5Curzon Street, London, EnglandBusinessc. 1954  
Item 4 of 5Ferguson House/15-17, Marylebone Road, London, EnglandBusiness1960s  
Item 5 of 542-46, Weymouth Street, London, EnglandBusinessLate 1970s  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 6Metcalf & MetcalfApril 1934September 1934Assistant 
Item 2 of 6Borough of Willsden, Architect's DepartmentAugust 1935 Assistant 
Item 3 of 6Hertfordshire County Architects Office19451948Deputy Architect 
Item 4 of 6Ministry of Education19481956Chief Architect 
Item 5 of 6Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall (RMJM)19561961Partner 
Item 6 of 6Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners (RMJM)1961Late 1970sPartner 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6Leonard Holcombe Bucknell2 April 1936for Associateship
Item 2 of 6Lionel Bailey Budden22 June 1936For Associateship
Item 3 of 6Maurice William LeeJune 1964For Fellowship
Item 4 of 6Gilbert Henry Lovegrove2 April 1936For Associateship
Item 5 of 6Robert Hogg MatthewApril 1964For Fellowship
Item 6 of 6Peter Arthur NewnhamJune 1964For Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 2David Plaistow Crease3 June 1970For Fellowship
Item 2 of 2George Haslehurst Lawrence (sometimes misspelt George Hazelhurst Lawrence)7 April 1965For Fellowship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 10 Bath University  BathEngland 
Item 2 of 101956Firrhill Secondary SchoolFirrhill EdinburghScotland 
Item 3 of 101957New Zealand House  LondonEngland 
Item 4 of 101957St John's Boarding School  SingaporeSingapore 
Item 5 of 101957University of Aberdeen, Masterplan  AberdeenScotland 
Item 6 of 101960Commonwealth Institute  LondonEngland 
Item 7 of 101967Hunterston B Nuclear Power Station  AyrshireScotland 
Item 8 of 10c. 1969Cumnock Senior ClubCumnock AyrshireScotland 
Item 9 of 10Early 1960sSelwyn College extensionCambridge CambridgeshireEngland 
Item 10 of 101971Market, 8-10 Market Street  AberdeenScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 6Bailey, Rebecca M1996Scottish architects' papers: a source book Edinburgh: The Rutland Pressp136
Item 2 of 6DNB Dictionary of National Biography  Entry by Andrew Derbyshire
Item 3 of 6Glendinning, Miles2008Modern architect: the life and times of Robert Matthew RIBA Publishing 
Item 4 of 6RIBA1954RIBA Kalendar 1953-54   
Item 5 of 6RIBA1964The RIBA Kalendar 1963-64   
Item 6 of 6RIBA1979Directory of members   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Architects Journal18 December 1952  p72
Item 2 of 4The Times18 December 1981  p14 Obituary
Item 3 of 4The Times22 December 1981  p12 Obituary
Item 4 of 4The Times24 December 1981  p8 Obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A no6065, F no682 (combined Box 100?) Check this reference