Obituary: Professor Denis Harper

Denis Rawnsley Harper, architect, town planner and teacher, born Harrogate 27 May 1907, Assistant Architect in practice in London 1930-38, Lecturer in School of Architecture University of Cape Town 1939-49, Associate Architect BBC TV Centre 1950-52, Chief Architect Corby New Town 1952-57, Professor of Building UMIST 1957-74, President Institute of Building 1971-72, CBE 1975, married 1934 Joan Coggin (died 1968; one son, one daughter), 1971 Dora Oxenham, died Great Doddington 3 February 1992.

THE BOUNDARIES between the activities and responsibilities of the various professions which control the construction industry's products are traditionally clearly delimited. Denis Harper was an architect who had the zeal and the commitment to break down these barriers and who did much to progress his vision of an industry in which the roles of architect, town planner, builder, engineer and technologist were more fully integrated.

Born in Harrogate, the son of a chemist, Harper left school at 16 to work with a local architect before going on to the Liverpool School of Architecture which was then run by Charles Reilly. Harper was one of a group of students who graduated in 1930 and who later distinguished themselves nationally and internationally. .

On graduation Harper worked in London for the practice of Pite Son and Fairweather and here he was involved in the design of the last tuberculosis hospital to be built in Britain. As a result of his work on hospital design he was awarded the RIBA Saxon-Snell Prize. After completing a range of interesting design work in the 1930s he returned to academic life in 1939 as lecturer in Architecture at the University of Cape Town, where he spent 10 years. The Cape Town School was then under the direction of Thornton White. In his time in South Africa Harper was concerned with the development of the technical aspects of architectural education but with characteristic energy he completed a doctorate and also studied town planning as well as working in professional practice.

He returned to England in 1950 and subsequently spent five years as the chief architect at Corby New Town. This position, involving detailed collaboration with contractors, developed his growing conviction of the need for a fully integrated building team. Harper carried this philosophy forward in his career at the Manchester University's Institute of Science and Technology when he was appointed the first Professor of Building in Britain in 1957. At Manchester he was responsible for designing a building degree course which recognised the need for a foundation of science and technology, and an understanding of the interrelation between ergonomics and design. He was also concerned with the development of courses which met the growing needs of the construction industry by producing graduates having the necessary understanding of the techniques of management.

As a teacher and head of department, Harper will be remembered not just for his skills as a lecturer and communicator, but also for the imagination and vision that led him to encourage the development of innovative work at the postgraduate level. During his time as professor the department was famous for its work in design technology and design analysis. He also encouraged his engineering colleagues to develop postgraduate activity in the services engineering field.

Harper's influence at Manchester went far beyond his departmental role as professor. He made a major contribution to the planning of the UMIST campus during the 1960s expansion. He served with distinction on a wide range of university committees and was Dean of the Faculty of Technology from 1967 to 1968.

His planning work extended beyond the university and he worked in collaboration with the Civic Trust of the North West for the towns of Crosby, Ashton-under- Lyne, Elland and Dukinfield. As a result of his professional work in this field he was awarded a medal and diploma for good design in housing by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1967.

Harper's work as a builder in the broadest sense of that term was recognised by his being made president of the Institute of Building in 1971-72. This was followed by work as a member of the three-man commission that investigated the disastrous Summerland fire in the Isle of Man in 1973-74. He was appointed CBE in 1975.

On his retirement Denis Harper remained active in promoting his belief in the integrated building team and in the integration of building scholarship. His book Building: the process and the product (1978) embodied much of his philosophy.

As a professor Harper will be remembered by his academic colleagues for his great personal kindness and his staunch and unwavering support. He was always ready to encourage and assist staff and students alike, and many are grateful to have worked under his direction. He was a man of tremendous energy who worked with great diligence. This application coupled with his vision have resulted in a contribution of great value and lasting worth.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories