Colin Boyne

Editor of 'The Architects' Journal'


Donald Arthur Colin Aydon Boyne, architectural journalist: born Farway, Devon 15 February 1921; Editor, The Architects' Journal 1949-70; Chairman of the Editorial Board, The Architects' Journal and The Architectural Review 1970-74; CBE 1977; married 1947 Rosemary Pater (two sons, one daughter); died Wells, Somerset 27 September 2006.

Colin Boyne stood for architecture as a service, not an art form, and his editorship of The Architects' Journal from 1949 to 1974 reflected this. He was the most influential architectural journalist of the post-war period, and continued to encourage younger writers in his retirement.

Though trained as an architect, Boyne never practised. Born in Devon, near Honiton, he was brought up by his mother and a spinster aunt, who determined that Boynes had to be farmers or military men, not architects. When the Second World War came, Colin joined the Indian Army - as being far from his mother. When he was badly wounded in Burma and invalided out, he was awarded a scholarship to the Architectural Association in London, in 1943, although standing over a drawing board aggravated the constant pain that he endured for the rest of his life.

So he turned to journalism, after his young wife, Rosemary, spotted an advertisement for an editorial assistant at the Architectural Press. Originally rejected for the job by the editor, Jim Richards, he was contacted two months later, the first appointment having been a disaster. Boyne proved an outstanding success, rising in two years to become Editor of The Architects' Journal, leaving Richards to concentrate on his first love, The Architectural Review.

In the 1930s and 1940s there were only two serious architectural magazines, both managed by the charismatic Hubert de Cronin Hastings. The monthly Architectural Review was glamorous and glossy, with articles from John Betjeman, John Piper, Gordon Cullen and Nikolaus Pevsner that mixed modernism with an appreciation of Britain's past.

Boyne took the weekly Architects' Journal from being its poor relation and made it essential reading for the profession: campaigning, perceptive and presenting the latest technical information. It pioneered the promotion of cost analysis in case studies written by outside experts, and re-inspected buildings after a few years to see if they had met their brief. Design guides, begun in 1961, boosted sales by a third in that year alone. By 1970, when Boyne became chairman of the editorial board of both magazines, the AJ was supporting the AR.

Boyne had a commitment to modern architecture, but above all to architecture as a service for the public good. He never wavered from this social commitment, which dominated architecture in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and he regretted the subsequent return of what he termed "conspicuous display". Instead, he encouraged public-sector architects, whose work was hitherto published anonymously and generally disregarded by the profession.

One of Boyne's first campaigns was to return responsibility for London council housing to the Architect's Department after it had been passed to the London County Council's Valuer - responsible for the acres of nondescript housing flung up in suburbs like Borehamwood and Harold Hill in the 1940s. He succeeded handsomely in 1949, but remembered with embarrassment over 50 years later that the Valuer, Cyril Walker, had tears in his eyes when they met to hear the council's decision.

Boyne was not only tough and astute: his sense of justice was tempered with humility and warmth. His friends in the profession were the public-sector architects he championed, the designers of housing and schools, and he did much to promote the revival of interest in the classic Hertfordshire prefabricated schools of the late 1940s when he brought together these architects and the historian Andrew Saint to assemble a biography of the architect he most admired, Stirrat Johnson-Marshall, designer of the now-threatened Commonwealth Institute.

Physically tough despite his disability, in 1959 Boyne took on management of a 40-acre wood in Kent, where he and Rosemary built themselves a house. They sought an easier life in Wells in the early 1990s, but Boyne soon became chairman of the Planning Committee of the local Civic Society and of the local branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. He was greatly distressed by the sale of the Architectural Press, first to UTP and then Robert Maxwell, but the tributes paid by his fellow architects when he finally retired in 1984 cannot be bettered. As Hugh Morris wrote then,

behind the dry, quizzical, abrupt, sometimes paramilitary manner and the conservative dark

suit hides the 100 per cent, unreconstructed, inveterate, unrepentant hair-shirted radical . . . that's about the highest praise I can think of.

Elain Harwood

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