Obituary: James Gardner

James Gardner was the most difficult and one of the greatest acts in design to follow, writes Kenneth Grange [further to the obituary by Sir Hugh Casson, 29 March]. His modesty overshadowed a genius for making the commonplace magical and for giving the miraculous a place in the common culture. He was an artist, but invaluably an artist in commerce. The output from his inventive mind was boundless - most of us would be justly proud if we owned just one of his many careers.

From the most senior of the positions that he held he took pleasure in debunking the pompous. He once told me how much he enjoyed the title of his army job, Army Deception: he thought it neatly described the majority of armies' daily work. As a director of the Army Camouflage School he invented a phantom army of inflatable tanks, aircraft and ships, all real enough to convince the German watchers that our resources were vaster than they were. That work alone warranted a knighthood, astonishingly not bestowed.

He was so good at explaining anything, particularly through the medium of exhibitions, that great corporations stood in line until James was ready. Philips, I was once told, had waited three years for him to start on their brilliant lighting exposition at Eindhoven. He almost totally designed the greatest innovation in ocean liners, the QE2 - like so many of the enterprises of the golden age of British design, now taken for granted but, as history shows, immensely influential in the whole sector of travel.

Through his extraordinary life he remained an unsung hero, yet he will continue to affect the millions of visitors to the 16 museums that he designed. He truly understood the importance of giving pleasure through design and the extraordinary entertainment that he created in the Battersea Pleasure Gardens has never been approached for public success.

In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s his prodigious output gave example and enthusiasm to countless designers who were given these amazing demonstrations to follow: no one could, but all learnt immensely in the trying. He also leaves behind his book The ARTful Designer (1993) and this has to be required reading for anybody who can conceive that art should be a pleasure.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn