(Norman) Keith Scott CBE 1927 – 2015

N Keith Scott CBE 1927 - 2015Keith Scott,  BDP Chairman 1984 – 1989, has died aged 88. His funeral will take place at 11.00 am on Friday 31st July at Preston Minster Church and there will be a memorial service to celebrate Keith’s life at 2.30 pm on Friday 4th September, also at Preston Minster.

Keith played an important role in the establishment and early development of Building Design Partnership, as BDP was then known, from its inception in 1961 until his retirement in 1989. Having worked alongside George Grenfell Baines (a fellow Prestonian) as part of his architectural group in the late 1950s, Keith was an enthusiastic advocate of interdisciplinary working. At that time this new concept was the key principle on which the firm was founded based on the ideas of Walter Gropius and his earlier work at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany.

As an architect, Keith had eclectic tastes producing residential, educational and religious buildings during the 1960s and 1970s, invariably in the modernist style of the period. However, when the opportunity came along to regenerate run down (predominantly northern) town and city centre locations, with retail led mixed use developments, Keith took it and found his metier. Major schemes in Blackburn, Rochdale and Blackpool during the 1970s were followed by others in  Edinburgh, Ealing, Carlisle and Kingston during the 1980s. The evolution of Keith’s work within the sector demonstrates how his designs became more refined over time. His skill was to create developments which were both humane and commercially strong so that they were appreciated by both local people and developers alike. By the late 1980s, Keith had acquired an enviable reputation as the UK’s leading retail architect, designing schemes across the UK and internationally. He had a string of award winning projects and a long list of clients who would travel up to Lancashire from London in order to engage his services.

Keith was born in Preston where he lived all his life, primarily at Overleigh House overlooking Avenham Park and the River Ribble, with his wife Dorothy and their four children. Educated at Preston Grammar School, he studied architecture and town planning at Liverpool University before winning a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT in Boston, Massachusetts. No doubt it was during this period that he developed a lifelong passion for the USA, a country he continued to visit throughout his life, usually studying the latest architectural concepts which would be carefully recorded in his ever present sketchbook. Keith was an inveterate traveller who developed a wide network of friends (and a number of design commissions!) in many different parts of the world.

Keith had many different passions – entrepreneurial by nature, he was always active and never still. During his life, he produced three beautifully illustrated books which reflect the diversity of his interests. ‘Shopping Centre Design’ came in 1989 followed by ‘Would You Care To Say Something?’ in 1998. This told the story of the BDP Music Society, founded by Keith in Preston where it operated successfully for 42  years. A great lover of classical music, each year Keith put together a programme of eight concerts featuring recitals from many of the world’s leading classical musicians including names such as Alfred Brendel, Sir James Galway, Radu Lupu, Leon Goossens, Jorge Bolet, Nigel Kennedy and John Lill, many of whom returned several times. They had invariably been persuaded to include Preston within their itinerary, tempted by the warm hospitality offered by Keith and Dorothy at Overleigh House.

Keith’s third book is in two volumes and was published in 2012. Entitled ‘Travels with an Architect’, it is a delightful travel almanac containing literally hundreds of his sketches made during his travels. These are accompanied by interesting anecdotes which describe his experiences in the many parts of the world to which he travelled during a long life lived to the full. Among his many roles, Keith was architect to the Dean and Chapter of Liverpool Cathedral from 1979 to 1998 and a board member of the Lake District Summer Music Festival from 1984 to 1995.

Keith was greatly respected by the people who worked for him in BDP’s Preston office which grew to be more than 300 strong during the 1980s. Much of that growth came on the back of the high profile projects won by teams which Keith led, often as a result of design competitions. Although a hard taskmaster, his enthusiasm for his work was infectious. He never expected more from others than he would give himself but having said that, he always drove himself very hard. Totally committed, he was a straight talking Lancastrian with a very sharp brain and a keen sense of humour.

David Cash, Chairman BDP

Editors note:
I was saddened to hear of Keith’s death. In my early years as a lighting designer & engineer for Thorn, based in the Manchester office, I often visited the BDP offices or met Keith on building sites. I always remember how willing he was to share his knowledge and help you ‘see’ something in a new light. He didn’t suffer fools gladly and was quick to let you know if something wasn’t quite right. But that was often tempered with humour and a smile. As he once told me after I had just dropped an armful of blueprints on a dirty building site floor, “just because you’re the only woman around here, it doesn’t mean you won’t get told off – but I will probably be more gentle about it”. And then he winked and strode off, waving at me to follow him. RIP Keith.

Julie Allen

29 Jul