Obituary: Ray Cecil

Ray Cecil will be remembered by the architectural profession as their mentor on practice matters and the champion of the small practitioner.

He came to the fore in 1977, when the Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects voted to allow advertising by architects, the first such decision by any profession. Believing that the architect and client relationship was a very personal one and not a commercial trading relationship, he organised a campaign to overturn the council's decision. Of some 4,000 practices in the United Kingdom, about 80 to 90 per cent employed fewer than five people and he sought, therefore, to protect the majority against the financial clout of the few, including that of his own practice.

His campaign was successful, only for him to find, three years later, in 1980, a renewed attempt by the RIBA Council to re- introduce the issue, coupled with a change to the Code of Conduct. On this occasion, Cecil combined with others to convene a Special General Meeting of the RIBA membership which requisitioned a poll on the proposal. Again, he was successful: it was overturned by a majority of over two- thirds.

Seen as champion of the majority, Cecil stood for and was elected to the RIBA Council in 1980 and again in 1983. He already had an intense interest in the proper management of an architect's office and had been a member of the Practice Committee since 1978. His following in the membership earned him the position of Vice-President in charge of practice matters.

In 1989, Council sought to change its constitution so that there would be no nationally elected members. Cecil was convinced that such a change would destroy the RIBA and its headquarters work, as the outcome would have been a number of underfunded, uncoordinated regional centres. With three others, he called for a poll on the subject and was successful in maintaining the status quo. Again, riding on the success of overturning Council's recommendations, Cecil was reelected to the Council with more than double the first-choice votes (using a transferable vote system) of the next candidate.

It was in the following year, 1990, that Cecil retired from the practice, latterly known as Cecil Denny Highton & Partners, that he had formed in April 1960. The practice had a mainly commercial workload in its early years, but turned increasingly to the public sector after the recession of the mid- Seventies. The principal project in Cecil's time was the refurbishment of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a project that is still under commission. Although a large practice by both national and international standards, it was never perceived as an establishment practice; indeed, Cecil would never have wanted it so.

He must, therefore, have felt sadness when, later in the same year, he stood for President of the RIBA against Richard MacCormac, the Council's senior Vice-President. It was originally a three-horse race; one candidate dropped out and the soft-spoken MacCormac prevailed against the outspoken Cecil.

In retirement, Cecil continued to champion the cause of the individual and small practitioner, having switched from writing regular articles for the RIBA Journal to the Architects Journal. Throughout his time as a public figure, he adopted the "open door" philosophy for RIBA members which had earlier marked the management style of his own practice. His interest in the young and their induction into the architectural profession was a crusade that he pursued relentlessly and there will be many who, for years to come, will continue to be grateful for the ethics, probity and professionalism with which he imbued them, both directly and insidiously.

Michael Highton

Raymond Joseph Cecil, architect: born 22 February 1925; served Fleet Air Arm 1942-46; partner, Raymond J. Cecil & Partners 1971-83, Cecil Denny Highton & Partners 1983-90, consultant 1990-95; married (one son); died 29 January 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before