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So Long, Sir Richard MacCormac

August 11, 2014
by the gentle author

Today we remember the celebrated Architect and long-time Spitalfields resident, Sir Richard Cornelius MacCormac, CBE, PPRIBA, FRSA, RA, whose funeral takes place in Christ Church this morning. Just two months ago, he published Two Houses in Spitalfields as a record of the adjoining properties that he and Jocasta Innes inhabited in Heneage St – each manifesting their owners’ contrasted sensibilities yet by their connection emblematic of the personal relationship which bound them together for thirty years.

Sir Richard MacCormac photographed at Southwark Station in 2013 by Dominic Harris

Born in Marylebone in 1938, Richard MacCormac came from a distinguished medical and naval family of Irish origin that included Queen Victoria’s House Physician. As a boy, he built model boats and then did his National Service in the Royal Navy. Possessing a life-long love for sailing, in recent years he owned a 1908 oyster-fishing smack that he sailed on the Thames Estuary.

Passionate to forge an humane version of Modernist architecture, Richard MacCormac worked on social housing projects in Merton in the nineteen-sixties before establishing his own practise in Spitalfields, MacCormac Jamieson Prichard, in 1972. Reconciling an Arts & Crafts appreciation for fine materials with Frank Lloyd’s delight in sympathetic geometry, he designed a series of notable buildings for Oxford & Cambridge colleges, including an accommodation block for Trinity College, Cambridge, that he considered his finest work. More recent projects included Southwark Station and the new Broadacasting House in Portland Place which succeeded in elegantly counterbalancing George Val Myers’ 1935 building, despite the meddling of BBC executives.

In Spitalfields, Richard MacCormac will be fondly remembered for his shrewd intelligence, wit and generosity of spirit. Within one month last year, he and Jocasta Innes each discovered they were afflicted with terminal cancer and both met these tragic circumstances with singular fortitude and strength of character.

Secret door in Richard MacCormac’s house that led to Jocasta Innes’ house

View back from Richard MacCormac’s house towards the secret door

Stairwell with display of medals belonging to Richard MacCormac’s ancestors

Model boat constructed by Richard MacCormac

Richard MacCormac’s library

Folding desk in Richard MacCormac’s study

Hallway of Jocasta Innes’ house

Jocasta Innes’ kitchen

Jocasta Innes’ library with portrait of her mother

Chest in Jocasta Innes’ bedroom

Secret door on the landing in Jocasta Innes’ house leading to Richard MacCormac’s house

“The two Spitalfields houses, and our lives, were bound together, continually touched by our shared interests. They have many characteristics in common – illusion, allusion, surprise, humour and, of course, colour, but with the distinct identities which reflect us both” – Richard MacCormac

All photographs except exterior shot © Jan Baldwin

Exterior photograph © Hélène Rollin

You may also like to read about

Jocasta Innes, Cook, Writer & Paint Specialist

At Jocasta Innes’ House

16 Responses leave one →
  1. August 11, 2014

    I am sorry to hear of Sir Richard’s death. He was one of those architects who looked at a building and saw its beauty and worth as a place to live, and not as a financial development to rip down and develop. Valerie

  2. Elisabeth Mellen permalink
    August 11, 2014

    How very sad, such a kind man, and so soon after Jocasta Innes, and before them Polly Hope and Theo Crosby. Art and architecture shall not see their like again. RIP Richard

  3. August 11, 2014

    Sad to hear of his death. His work will live on and we can all be thankful for his legacy.

  4. August 11, 2014

    Very sad. I bought his book ‘Two Houses in Spitalfields’ only a few months ago.

  5. August 11, 2014

    We are so sad to hear of Richard’s death. He was one of our most favourite customers in the bookshop, as was Jocasta. He was so charming and we had many chats about the books he ordered. We’ll miss him.
    We have his lovely book Two Houses in Spitalfields in stock at Brick Lane Bookshop, 166 Brick Lane, E1 6RU – just down the road from Richard’s house!

  6. August 11, 2014

    Chris Dyson, founder of Chris Dyson Architects
    ‘I had the pleasure of working with Richard very closely over the last two years on the detail design and construction of his dining room, at the rear Heneage Street – his home for many years. I will never forget the lasting impression he made on me, his tenacity and dogged pursuit of the detail. He had a great capacity to defuse difficult situations and meetings by injecting humour and telling anecdotes.

    ‘He was a giant in terms of his architecture. An inspirational figure in many respects, who always ploughed his own furrow, with great energy and enthusiasm, which he did until very recently, with the beautiful publication of a book ‘Two houses in Spitalfields’ a story of the entwined lives and homes of his late partner Jocasta Innes of 30 years.

    ‘He will be sorely missed by the architectural profession and many in the community of Spitalfields and where he lived and was loved, by family and many friends alike.’

  7. Marianne Butler permalink
    August 11, 2014

    An architect of ingenuity, intelligence and integrity – and a very nice man too. A life lived well.

    Marianne Butler – author of London Architecture (Metro Publications)

  8. August 11, 2014

    R.I.P., Sir Richard MacCormac (1938 – 2014)

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  9. Pauline Taylor permalink
    August 11, 2014

    I too am sad to hear of the death of such a man, to me his character shines through in his face, and you would just know that you could trust him with anything in any circumstances. Although I thought I didn’t know him I am now not so sure as his face does look very familiar so perhaps, as I gather that he was a book buyer, he did visit my bookshop, I hope so as it would be nice to think that our paths did cross.

  10. John Cooper permalink
    August 11, 2014

    You were lucky to have him as a resident for so many years. You might like my own small tribute to Richard : http://ow.ly/Acr5P

  11. Ann and Marc permalink
    August 11, 2014

    Richard was a wonderful person and a fantastic, supportive neighbour and friend. The Pride of Spitalfields is not the same without his regular visits for a pint or a red wine(drink in or takeaway). He had a genuine interest in the bar staff an customers and is sorely missed. The loss of Richard, Jocasta and Polly in such a short space of time leaves a massive hole in all of our lives.

  12. Alan Beal-Forbes permalink
    August 11, 2014

    I was very interested to read about Sir Richard and fascinated by the interiors although I had not previously heard of him.
    On a pure factual question I note the property is in Heneage Street. Does that street have any connexion with Sir Thomas Heneage,one of Elizabeth I`s courtiers,who acquired Copped Hall,Epping from her and whose remains are the subject of seasonal excavations by the West Essex Archaeological Group?
    ABF

  13. Persephone Lavinia FitzGerald permalink
    August 12, 2014

    Adieu Dear Richard,

    I will Always Remember ‘The Fun Trip’ with MJP that we All had across to Boulogne all those years ago and when you were so kind to me!

  14. Helene Rolin permalink
    August 14, 2014

    An adoptive father, friend, confident, brilliant mind and of great inspiration. May the terrific conversation and endless stories inspire us. Holding a glass of wine on the George and Alice, at diner parties in Jocasta’s Kitchen or at the Pride. His visionary smile and sparkling eyes will be missed!

  15. Tara Bradford permalink
    August 14, 2014

    I’m so terribly sorry to hear of Sir Richard’s death. I’ve always admired his work and heard nothing but good things about his character and personality. I’m grateful that he published Two Houses in Spitalfields for all to see the beauty and charm of his life with the late Jocasta Innes.

  16. August 17, 2014

    Such beautiful photographs. I also want a secret door in my house.

    I only met Richard MacCormac once, yet the brilliance of his mind still resonanates.

    It was a few years ago when we had an impromptu chat in Alan Penn’s office at the Bartlett, which was meant to have been about suburban housing, but very quickly segued into a lively discussion about the power of the Charles Booth maps of poverty in illuminating how poverty and prosperity follow the pattern of the streets. This led me to read his ‘An Anatomy of London’, which is now a set text for my students.

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