Obituary: Paul Young

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The Independent Online
Paul Nicholas Young, landscape designer: born Swansea 10 May 1947; instructor, School of Environmental Design, University of Georgia 1972-74; principal landscape architect, Cheshire County Planning Department 1974-75; part-time lecturer, School of Landscape Architecture, Manchester Polytechnic 1975-83; landscape architect, Building Design Partnership 1975-80; landscape director, BDP 1978-80; director, Brian Clouston and Partners 1980-87; part-time lecturer, School of Architecture, Huddersfield Polytechnic 1983-92; principal, Paul Young Associates 1987-92; senior lecturer, University of Huddersfield School of Architecture 1992-94; died Leeds 17 September 1994.

IN A LIFE cruelly cut short by cancer when he was just 47, Paul Young made a contribution to environmental planning and to education which many enjoying a full career-span would find hard to match. His versatility was perhaps his most impressive quality. He was equally conversant with a large-scale reclamation project, a private house scheme, urban renewal in Belfast, a university master plan in Nigeria or taking a group of students to explore intractable urban development issues in Cairo.

Young studied at Birmingham School of Architecture, qualifying in 1970, before gaining a Governor's Internship at the University of Georgia. Customary practice on such schemes is to combine higher-level study with lower-level teaching and he took the opportunity to take a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture, gaining the American Society of Landscape Architecture Certificate of Honour in 1974. A year later he returned to Britain, joining both the RIBA and the Landscape Institute. Perhaps as importantly, the Georgia experience had given him his first taste of teaching. In a profession where teaching and practice are not often combined, it was an activity he maintained throughout his career.

Notwithstanding this commitment to education and ideas, he was very much a man of action. In only a short time after returning to Britain he became Landscape Director at Building Design Partnership (BDP), in their Manchester office, implementing master plans and landscape schemes for a wide variety of projects, including hospitals at Ormskirk, Stafford, St Helens and Blackpool, urban renewal schemes in the Falls Road, Shankill Road, Highfield and Townmartin areas of Belfast, as well as the plan for Owens Park study village in Manchester and housing schemes for Central Lancashire New Town. His most telling work exploited a particular interest in reclamation and landscape vulnerability evident in projects for industrial redevelopment at Cambuslang steelworks, Ballachulish Slate Quarry and the town park at Tory Glen in Glasgow.

Young became an associate of BDP in 1978 but left two years later to join Brian Clouston and Partners which emerged as a leading landscape architecture practice during the 1980s. As director of the Liverpool office he was, with Clouston, the driving force behind the Liverpool Garden Festival in 1984. He peddled the idea with a reluctant Merseyside Development Corporation before it was seized upon by central government as a flagship response to the inner-city problems. He was closely involved with the feasibility study and masterplan as well as being responsible for the detailed design of the Mersey Frontage and 'Nature in the City' areas. The legacy of the festival and the environmental potential it heralded is a fitting and lasting memorial to his persistence and creativity.

The seven-year period at Clouston's, up until 1987, capitalised on Young's growing experience and a number of significant reclamation projects were brought to fruition under his direction. Areas previously wasted by chemical contamination, domestic refuse and coal-mining were given a new lease of life by redevelopment for recreational or industrial purposes. Thus, in addition to the Liverpool South docks, reclamation for the Garden Festival site, he was responsible for regeneration at Millom Ironworks, Harrop Edge Quarry in Manchester, Reedwood Park at Walsall and the new northern HQ for Hewlett Packard in Stockport, where on a 20-acre site he devised the reclamation of the old refuse tip and proposed and implemented the design of external works. His work on recreational projects included feasibility studies for the restoration of the historic Williamson Park in Lancaster and the coast promenade and parks of North Scarborough.

The scope of his work took Young to Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Australia on a number of important commissions, including the landscape master plan and management strategy for Ahmadu Bello University at Kari in Nigeria in 1980.

Despite the demands of a busy practice he found the energy to maintain his contact with teaching. At the School of Architecture at Huddersfield Polytechnic he contributed from 1982, initially on a part-time basis, to the teaching of landscape theory to students of architecture. As both an architect and landscape architect he was ideally placed. He encouraged his students to consider the quality of external space design just as they might the internal environment. After his departure from Clouston's he set up his own practice and found his involvement at Huddersfield gradually increasing, and took up a full-time appointment in 1992 at the University of Huddersfield (as the polytechnic had become). There he became involved in issues of architecture and development in the non-industrialised world, a preoccupation of the degree in international architecture, while his indefatigable energy led him to contribute to many parts of the curriculum, particularly those concerned with urban and landscape issues.

In his private as well as his professional life he was gregarious. Under a somewhat gruff exterior he was compassionate and generous. Always a participant, he was involved through the Rotary Club in charitable work with youth and at Birkenhead Park Rugby Club where as welfare manager he organised trips, kit, first-aid or any other job which needed doing.

(Photograph omitted)

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