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Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Deacon Richards
Designation: Architect
Born: 7 May 1931
Died: 29 October 2003
Bio Notes: John Deacon Richards was born on 7 May 1931, the son of William John Richards, export manager, and his wife Ethel Waggott. He studied for the diploma in architecture at the Architectural Association in London. He was admitted ARIBA in 1955 and ARIAS in 1958.

From the AA, he went with David Whitham and John Bell to seek employment within the National Coal Board of Scotland, the Board's head architect Egon Riss being a friend of one their tutor Arthur Korn. All three were appointed, with Richards assigned to the Welfare Division (formerly the Miners Welfare Committee) where he worked on pithead baths, canteens and other social structures.

He joined the practice of Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall (RMJM) in the early 1960s, becoming a partner in 1964. He was Chairman of the Edinburgh partnership from 1977 to 1986 and latterly the whole partnership from 1983 to 1986.

At RMJM, Richards was appreciated by Matthew for his precise and quietly ambitious nature and his ability to handle larger projects. Accordingly, after being made partner in 1964, following his successful work as project architect on Matthew’s Arts Development in George Square, Richards was given responsibility for a number of large projects, usually large public complexes, including Stirling University and the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

The Royal Commonwealth Pool is seen as one of Richards’ finest achievements and is outstanding in a variety of ways, some of which are the way in which its large size is fitted into the landscape, the good circulation and the way in which two perennial problems in the design of pools, glare and condensation, have been solved. Similarly the Pathfoot building at the University of Stirling, with its strong horizontal emphasis, is notable for its functionality and organisational clarity. As with the Commonwealth Pool, the building fits well into the landscape, the large footprint being broken by a series of visually manageable terraces and courtyards.

As one of the younger post-war generation of designers, Richards was opposed to vernacular or folk approaches to architecture, tending more towards a slender, post-and lintel architecture of metal and glass. His use of the grid and ‘intense discipline of detailing’ gave his designs an overall harmony. Though his earlier buildings were ‘rat-trad’ (rationalised traditional), where technologies were traditional but components were largely manufactured off-site, he turned as much as possible to assembly of components off site, claiming that ‘in a scientific age’ architecture was ‘increasingly influenced by aesthetic and ethic preferences for precision and logic’. His two airports designs, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, are the best examples of his use of prefabricated construction.

Richards was active in professional matters and served as President of the RIAS from 1983-84. He taught at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow. He enjoyed the stimulation he received in the academic environment and saw it as a reward away from the increasing pressures of business. He was very aware of the relevance of professional and academic bodies, their mutual involvement and their relationship with practice. He was an elected Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy, a Commissioner of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland, Chairman of the Architectural Design Research Committee, BRE, Member of the Agrément Board, Member of the Buildings Standards Advisory Committee, Member of the Williams Committee on Galleries and Museums in Scotland, Governor of Edinburgh College of Art and Chairman of the Housing Corporation Scottish Committee.

Richards received honorary doctorates from Napier University and the University of Stirling. He was awarded the CBE.

He died on 29 October 2003, survived by his wife Margaret Brown whom he had met when she also worked for the practice, and their children.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 4Lady's Field, Whitekirk, East Lothian, ScotlandPrivate 2003 
Item 2 of 4The Glen, Balerno, Midlothian, ScotlandPrivatec. 1964 *  
Item 3 of 415, Hill Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1979 *  
Item 4 of 430, Hill Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessEarly 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 3Miners' Welfare Committee (or Miners' Welfare Commission), Mines Department, (National Coal Board Divisional Welfare)1950s   
Item 2 of 3Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners (RMJM)1964c. 1990Partner 
Item 3 of 3Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners (RMJM)Early 1960s1964  


RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1Thomas ('Tom') Riddell Spaven17 July 1968For 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 39 Guitar FactoryMuir of Ord Ross & CromartyScotland 
Item 2 of 39 Ski Lodge for Cairngorm Chairlift CompanyAviemore Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 3 of 391960sTurnhouse Airport  EdinburghScotlandExtensions
Item 4 of 391962Victoria Street housing developmentDunbar East LothianScotland 
Item 5 of 391964University of Edinburgh Faculty Buildings  EdinburghScotlandPartner in charge
Item 6 of 391964University of Edinburgh, George Square Theatre  EdinburghScotlandPartner in charge
Item 7 of 391964University of Strathclyde, Colville Building (Departments of Civil Engineering and Metallurgy)  GlasgowScotland 
Item 8 of 391964 or 1965Ninewells Hospital and Medical School  DundeeScotlandInitally in charge of design work, but not available to help enough, so it is unclear how significant his contribution was
Item 9 of 391965Aberdeen University Joint Agricultural Building  AberdeenScotland 
Item 10 of 391965National Library  IslamabadPakistan 
Item 11 of 391965Royal Commonwealth Pool  EdinburghScotlandPartner-in-charge
Item 12 of 391965University of Stirling Development PlanStirling StirlingshireScotlandPartner in charge - Richards was responsible for mapping out the development plan
Item 13 of 391966New University of UlsterColreaine  Eire 
Item 14 of 391966University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Epi-Genetics Building  EdinburghScotlandPartner in charge
Item 15 of 391966University of Stirling, including library and landscapingStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 16 of 391966University of Stirling, Pathfoot Building  StirlingshireScotlandPartner in charge
Item 17 of 391967Hunterston B Nuclear Power Station  AyrshireScotland 
Item 18 of 39c. 1969Cumnock Senior ClubCumnock AyrshireScotland 
Item 19 of 391970University of Stirling, Bridge of Airthrey LochStirling StirlingshireScotlandPartner in charge
Item 20 of 391971British Home Stores  AberdeenScotland 
Item 21 of 391971Industrialised Building Project (IBP) housing projectGurgi Tripoli (near)Libya 
Item 22 of 391971Market, 8-10 Market Street  AberdeenScotland 
Item 23 of 391971University of Stirling, MacRobert Arts CentreStirling StirlingshireScotland 
Item 24 of 391972Bottle ExchangeDean Village EdinburghScotlandConversion of derelict bottle works into office for practice.
Item 25 of 391972Opera House site  EdinburghScotlandScheme for pyramidal opera house
Item 26 of 391972Stables, Bell's Brae  EdinburghScotlandConversion to offices
Item 27 of 391975Edinburgh Airport  EdinburghScotlandProject architect.
Item 28 of 391975Royal Commonwealth Pool  EdinburghScotlandSauna suite addition
Item 29 of 391975University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Genome Unit  EdinburghScotlandPartner in charge
Item 30 of 391977Aberdeen Airport  AberdeenScotlandGerrard Bakker was project architect, but the design was closely based on Richards' design for Edinburgh Airport
Item 31 of 391979Electronics Factory for Burroughs CorporationLivingston West LothianScotland 
Item 32 of 391979International Business Machines (IBM) FactoryGreenock RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 33 of 39Before 1979Housing for the Link Housing Association  EdinburghScotland 
Item 34 of 391981Caledonian Hotel  EdinburghScotlandRepairs and redevelopment
Item 35 of 391984Office for architectural practice, Dean VillageDean Village EdinburghScotland 
Item 36 of 391984Opera House site  EdinburghScotlandNew scheme for opera house
Item 37 of 391987Glasgow Royal Concert Hall  GlasgowScotlandProject Architect
Item 38 of 39c. .1966Coleraine-Portrush-Portstewart Area Plan   Northern IrelandHelped Matthew in negotiations and programming matters
Item 39 of 39c. 1960University of Edinburgh, David Hume Tower (Arts Building) and redevelopment of George Square  Edinburgh, MidlothianScotlandRichards succeeded Steedman as Matthew's chief assistant (and later project architect) for the project.


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 8Bailey, Rebecca M1996Scottish architects' papers: a source book Edinburgh: The Rutland Pressp135
Item 2 of 8Glendinning, Miles1997Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75  Tuckwell Press Ltdp16, p165-7 George Square redevelopment - Arts Tower
p29, 116, 119, 124, 127, 156, 164-5 University of Stirling
p29,39,86,116,125-9,164,185 Royal Commonwealth Pool
Item 3 of 8Glendinning, Miles2008Modern architect: the life and times of Robert Matthew RIBA Publishingpp257, 281, 287-8, 292-4, 300-1, 340-2, 348-9, 395, 443, 526, 528-9
Item 4 of 8Miles Glendinning, Diane Watters, David Whitham Docomomo Scotland Leaflet  Cover, p231 Royal Commonwealth Pool
Item 5 of 8RIBA1964The RIBA Kalendar 1963-64   
Item 6 of 8RIBA1970RIBA Directory 1970   
Item 7 of 8RIBA1979Directory of members   
Item 8 of 8Willis, Peter1977New architecture in Scotland  p52-55 University of Stirling
p76-9 Royal Commonwealth Pool

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3RIAS Chartered Architect2003v15, no5 Christmas 2003
Item 2 of 3RIAS Chartered Architect2004v16, no1 Death notice
Item 3 of 3Scotsman13 November 2003  Obituary p20

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of David WhithamInterview of David Whitham by Jessica Taylor, 25 March 2009 Information on his time in the Scottish National Coal Board Welfare Division
Item 2 of 2RIAS, Rutland SquareRecords of membership  


© All rights reserved. ©and courtesy of RIAS 

© All rights reserved. ©and courtesy of RIAS