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)

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 and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor