OBITUARY : L Elie Mayorcas

Elie Mayorcas, the architect, was a prominent member of the "Festival of Britain" generation of architects who came to the fore in the immediate post-war period.

Mayorcas qualified at the Architectural Association school in 1939 and on the outbreak of war joined the Royal Engineers, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He narrowly avoided capture by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore, being ordered to leave with a small group on the last boat out. This became the target of a number of Japanese torpedoes, but, being a small, old flat- bottomed craft the torpedoes passed harmlessly below it. After a long and harrowing voyage across the Indian Ocean the group under his command eventually reached Ceylon. By then in a state of near starvation, they were refused permission to land by the au- thorities, who accused them of being deserters. Fortunately Mayorcas had taken the precaution of insisting on written orders and they were accorded a hero's welcome.

On demobilisation he set up in private practice and established a reputation as a leading designer, particularly of schools during the great expansion of school-building in the Fifties and Sixties. Many of these were for the counties of Middlesex and Kent, a typical one for the latter being the Gravesend Gordon School described by Pevsner as "unusually elegant". In fact "elegance" characterised all his works and indeed the man himself and, although always designing in an uncompromisingly modern style, he brought to it a sensitivity and attention to scale which became his hallmark.

As his practice expanded so did the variety of his work which encompassed industrial housing and medical buildings as well as schools. One of his main commissions was the rebuilding of the St John's Wood barracks for the Royal Horse Artillery. This complex assignment involved the design of 22 disparate buildings grouped round the parade ground including, besides the barracks, the large troop stables and the renovation of the fine but dilapidated 1825 riding school with its 14 massive and splendid 85ft queen- post trusses. The end result is a coherent whole, the stables being a particularly successful interpretation of the traditional re- quirements for accommodating a large number of horses.

Elie Mayorcas was a Londoner born and bred. He was sometimes described as the capital's last pedestrian as from the end of the war he never owned or drove a car. His slight, elegant figure, always immaculate and always wearing a brown fedora which accentuated his remarkable resemblance to the young George Raft, proceeded sedately from his fine Georgian house in Devonshire Place to his offices in Baker Street. For many years he lived the life of a comfortably off bachelor in a style perhaps more typical of the Twenties or Thirties than the post-war period.

He was a great believer in giving responsibility to young architects and the very many whose careers have been influenced by their time in his office will remember him with affection and respect. Retiring from practice in 1976 he continued to build up his interesting and eclectic collection of paintings which ranged from 18th- century classical to some exceptional examples of Dame Laura Knight.

He married quite late in life and left London to live with his wife Bridget on her farm in Hampshire. There, surrounded by horses, dogs and stepchildren, this essentially urban and urbane man resolutely maintained his total indifference to country life.

Patric Guest

Elie Mayorcas was my landlord for more than 30 years, and never a cross word did I hear from him, writes Bernard Levin. For most of those years he lived literally under me, and if he didn't like Wagner, he never by word or gesture made that clear.

The building in which we both lived went back to the end of the 18th century, and Elie not only loved it, but made sure that it kept its pristine nature. (It still does.) I remember, though it was many years ago, that the original front door had to be removed, so gnarled and twisted had it become. Elie bemoaned its going as though it was a favourite son who had fallen into bad hands.

A visit to his duplex was a gracious pleasure; from the bow he never forgot as he opened the door, to the immediate glass of wine (and Elie knew wine from wine) a discussion might range from politics to the rental.

That sounds like the perfect gentleman, and the perfect gentleman Elie was. He would shake his head in sorrow when he read of the beastlinesses of modern life, but he never for a moment failed to live up to the standards he lived by. It was a pleasure to have known him, and anyone who did know him, will not forget him.

Elie Mayorcas, architect: born London 12 November 1908; married 1990 Bridget Edwards (nee Nicholson); died Monk Sherborne, Hampshire 18 August 1995.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us