Basic Biographical Details

Name: Geoffrey Copcutt
Designation: Architect
Born: 31 July 1928
Died: 1997
Bio Notes: Geoffrey Copcutt was born in Yorkshire on 31 July 1928. From September 1944 to June 1947 he studied at South East Essex School of Art. He would appear to have broken off his studies for National Service from June 1947 until September 1949. At this time he enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art and graduated in 1951. He was elected ARIBA later that year (his proposers are not listed in his ARIBA Nomination Paper). He worked briefly for the City Architect’s Department in Edinburgh in 1951-52.

From 1952 to 1956 he was a partner in Copcutt, Hancock & Associates in Leicester. This was a general practice. Zodiac, the International Magazine of Contemporary Architecture, portrayed Copcutt with his partners Thomas Hancock and *****Hawkes as outstanding architects of the year 1957-58. Copcutt returned to Scotland in 1958 to begin working for Cumbernauld Development Corporation and from 1959 he was Group Leader with responsibility for the development of the town centre. He remained in Cumbernauld until 1963, though he was the Henry L Florence Research Scholar in 1961. This enabled him to study for a Diploma in Traffic Engineering and Highway Planning at the Royal Technical College of Glasgow. He graduated from this with First Class honours. He was also awarded the Alexander Thomson Travelling Scholarship with which he visited Athens. Copcutt was hailed as ‘Grandiose Magnifico’ by Luigi Nervi for his work as Group Leader for the Town Centre project at Cumbernauld New Town, where he completed many details including shops, offices, banks etc.

In mid-1963 Copcutt moved to Northern Ireland to work for the Ministry of Development in the Government. His post was Chief Architect to Craigavon, the planned new city. It was conceived as a linear city that would link the towns of Lurgan and Portadown to create a single urban area and identity. However, in August 1964 Copcutt resigned from his post in a blaze of publicity, criticising the scheme for the dominant role of administrators and the political and religious restraints. Only about half of what was planned for Craigavon was executed. Copcutt never published his proposals the lack of which which was considered to be a great loss to British architecture and planning. In 1964 Copcutt moved to a post with the United Nations in New York where he was advisor in the Urban Design Special Fund Office and would seem to have carried out a number of studies for the UNO in Eire but in 1966 moved to the post of Mellon Professor of Architecture and Consultant to the Tranportation Institute at the Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. At the same time he had a private practice, Urban Design Associates. During this period he produced a ‘Plan for Comprehensive Education in Pittsburgh’.

Copcutt returned to Ireland in 1969 where he was Director of Planning, Frank Dunne (Developments) Ltd, Dublin and lived in this period in Redcross, Co. Wicklow. He was elected FRIBA in 1970, his proposers being Ian Duncan Black, Alexander Kerr and Tom Hancock. From 1971-73 he was senior partner in the firm (his own practice?) Urban and Regional Analysts. He moved to the Phillipines in 1981 and established himself as an Urban Planning and Land Use Consultant. He undertook work as far afield as Malaysia and Thailand.

Copcutt’s work was regarded as internationally significant. Alexander Kerr described his work at Cumbernauld as shaping the design of town centres thereafter. He also remarked that ‘from 1961-68 he held a most important position to forward the aims and objectives of space time and architecture’. William Gillespie, who worked with him at Cumbernauld, remembers him as ‘wild in every way: wild beard, wild hair, and he used to wear suits like carpets, light brown, with huge buttons; he was an amazing man’. Besides the recognition and awards noted before he was co-recipient of the Reynolds Award for community architecture and received a merit award from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. He published widely and made a number of broadcasts.

He died in 1997 in the Phillipines.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3Cumbernauld New Town, Lanarkshire, Scotland    
Item 2 of 3Redcross, Wicklow, County Wicklow, EirePrivate1970 *  
Item 3 of 340, Belgrave Square, Dublin, EirePrivate(?)1979 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.


Employment and Training

Employers

The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 7Edinburgh City Architect's Department (Edinburgh Corporation)19511952Assistant 
Item 2 of 7Copcutt, Hancock & Associates19521956Partner 
Item 3 of 7Cumbernauld New Town Development Corporation1958Mid 1963Group LeaderGroup Leader for the Town Centre development
Item 4 of 7Ministry of Development, Government of Northern Ireland19631964Chief Architect 
Item 5 of 7Urban Design Associates19661969Partner 
Item 6 of 7Frank Dunne (Developments) Ltd19691971DirectorWas Director of Planning
Item 7 of 7Urban and Regional Analysts19731979Senior Partner 

RIBA

RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Duncan Ian Black7 October 1970For Fellowship
Item 2 of 3Thomas Hancock7 October 1970For Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Alexander Kerr7 October 1970For 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 41958Cumbernauld Civic CentreCumbernauld LanarkshireScotlandAs chief architect Cumbernauld Development Corporation
Item 2 of 41959Cumbernauld Town Centre, Phase ICumbernauld LanarkshireScotlandAs Group Leader
Item 3 of 426 May 1961Roxburgh County BuildingsNewtown St Boswells RoxburghshireScotlandCopcutt's competition entry (no. 22) placed third per Builder p990
Item 4 of 41963Belfast Regional Plan  BelfastNorthern IrelandHead of design team for New Town 'Craigavon'
He resigned in August 1964

References

Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
 Author(s)DateTitlePartPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 8Glendinning, M, MacInnes, R and MacKechnie, A1996A History of Scottish Architecture  p562-563
Item 2 of 8Glendinning, Miles1997Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75  Tuckwell Press Ltdp30-1 Cumbernauld Town Centre
p84-5 Aerial of model of Town Centre
p86-92
p172 Cumbernauld Town Centre Phase I
Item 3 of 8Glendinning, Miles2008Modern architect: the life and times of Robert Matthew RIBA Publishingp333,336-7
Item 4 of 8Glendinning, Miles and Muthesius, Stefan1994Tower Block: Modern Public Housing in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland Yale University Press: New Haven and Londonp239 Cumbernauld Town Centre Phase 1
Item 5 of 8Miles Glendinning, Diane Watters, David Whitham Docomomo Scotland Leaflet  p230 Cumbernauld Town Centre
Item 6 of 8RIBA1964The RIBA Kalendar 1963-64   
Item 7 of 8RIBA1970RIBA Directory 1970   
Item 8 of 8RIBA1979Directory of members   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Courtesy of William GillespieInterview of William Gillespie by Jessica Taylor, 2 February 2009 at ECA