Patrick Garnett

Architect and interior designer


Patrick Barry Garnett, architect and designer: born Rhyl, Denbighshire 11 March 1932; married 1959 Derry Needham (two sons, two daughters); died 4 May 2006.

The architect Patrick Garnett made the rare achievement of designing for the masses and for the elite with equal panache, and his career is marked by the ability to embrace the fun, the fantastic and the serious in making exciting and pleasurable leisure spaces. He brought to British architecture a high-quality contemporary style that reflected key moments in the manifestation of popular culture in the second half of the 20th century.

Garnett, a founding partner in the architectural practice Garnett Cloughley Blakemore & Associates, was born in the chilly North Wales resort of Rhyl. He founded a practice there, and married Derry Needham, a local girl, yet his work took the practice to an international panoply of building sites. Garnett recognised the value of being associated with clients who had sufficient money to realise a good project, be it the entertainment magnate Billy Butlin, the royal family, or the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

After studying Architecture at Manchester University, and training with firms in New York and Los Angeles, Garnett formed a practice in 1959 with Anthony Cloughley. They secured a project to design an English version of "Disneyland" for Billy Butlin, Ronnie Smart (of the circus family) and a cinema corporation. Whilst this project foundered, it gave the practice the impetus to expand and flourish through work for Butlin, the caterer and hotelier Charles (later Lord) Forte, and the interior designer David Hicks.

Garnett was introduced to the film designer Erik Blakemore, who had designed the original Beachcomber Bar at the Mayfair Hotel in London. As Garnett Cloughley Blakemore (GCB), they provided six South Seas-themed bars at Butlin's holiday camps across Britain. The construction was undertaken by out-of-season waiters and Redcoats, a ploy by Butlin to retain their labour for the following season.

Garnett was also designing for some of the most technologically and socially advanced venues, exploring his commitment to the concept of totally designed environments. Through Butlin, his practice secured the project to design the interior for the "Top of the Tower" revolving restaurant in the Post Office Tower in London. This icon of progress displayed Garnett's taste for stainless steel, mirror and glass, a sophisticated expression of the camp that the practice used to infuse their work.

At this time the firm also produced the Chelsea Drugstore, a large boutique completely lined in reflective surfaces that multiplied the impressions of space, light and activity, and which formed an environment sufficiently disorienting to be selected for a scene in the film A Clockwork Orange (1971). Joining the Drugstore on the Kings Road were other, smaller, eye-catching boutiques styled by GCB, and they produced themed pubs, restaurants, Spaghetti Houses, and a number of private flats for the Chelsea set.

For Forte's, GCB designed the Scratchwood (now London Gateway) and Corley motorway service areas. The former was applauded for being the first such installation to offer high quality surroundings and a haven of tranquillity away from the road; the latter gave motorists the sight of a curvaceous yellow fibreglass edifice acting as a gateway to the Midlands. The aim with both these works was to convey to the everyday motorist a sense of elegance, and thereby educate the public to expect better design.

The contract with Forte's led to work on hotels in a dozen countries. Garnett recalled travelling in Forte's private plane to inspect the site for a holiday village in Sardinia. He sketched a scheme in the sand that afternoon and the practice designed the complete village including the church. There was also a holiday complex in Cyprus. The notion of total design reasserted itself in GCB working on everything from the rooms to the discotheques. Garnett was able also to contribute to the means of getting holidaymakers to their resorts, providing interior design for the liner Queen Elizabeth II alongside David Hicks, Misha Black, Michael Inchbald and Terence Conran.

He made regular public appearances and wrote on the importance of good design in the leisure industry. Garnett's links with the best in modernist design for lifestyle and fantasy are evidenced by his interviews with the architects César Manrique (who styled Lanzarote) and Oscar Niemeyer (creator of Brasilia).

GCB were subsequently house architects to the RIBA, and worked on Windsor Castle and the Palace of Westminster. At its peak the practice employed around 100 staff. By 1985 the firm had disbanded and Garnett ran his own practice in Covent Garden.

Patrick Garnett was active in the Architects Benevolent Society, arranging a number of fundraising events to support their philanthropic work, and he was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

David Lawrence

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