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OBITUARY : Keith Ingham

Alan Powers
Tuesday 02 May 1995 23:02 BST

Keith Ingham's largest building was Preston Bus Station. At the time that it was built, in 1969, it was the largest of its kind in the world, with 80 bus stands segregated for blue Corporation buses and red Ribble buses on different sides.

The building, designed by Ingham for his firm Building Design Partnership with the structural engineers Ove Arup & Partners, brought to surface transport the design standards applied more normally to airports, with a complete system of graphics and a prototype moulded plastic kiosk, designed by Ingham and made by Glasdon of Blackpool, versions of which can be seen all over Britain. The concrete decks of the multi-storey car-park were elegantly swept up with curved ends. Although controversial for preferring the convenience of vehicle over pedestrian movement, the building remains unaltered, even though the colours of the buses have changed. A virtual copy of the building was erected in Tehran.

In 1956 Ingham had joined Sir George Grenfell-Baines in the architectural practice which became Building Design Partnership (BDP) three years later. Within this multi-disciplinary group, based in the parent office in Preston, Ingham was distinguished by his commitment to the supremacy of design and visual considerations.

Ingham shared his generation's commitment to Modernism. Although he later came to acknowledge some of its weaknesses, he wrote in 1977, "I still have a (now secret) love of the pure white (when white) hard peopleless forms of the Modern Movement, perhaps in future to become an erotic indulgence of consenting intellectuals in private."

Keith Ingham was the son and grandson of builders in Lytham St Anne's and retained a strong loyalty to Lancashire. He was educated at the Leys School, Cambridge, and studied architecture at University College London, under Professor Hector Corfiato, against whose traditional regime he rebelled. He spent the year of 1954 working in Lytham for the late Tom Mellor, whose attention to detail in doors and windows he much admired.

At BDP, Ingham rose rapidly to associateship and enhanced the firm's prestige with design awards, such as the RIBA Ideal Home House competition in 1962. Some prototype houses were built to his pitch-roofed winning design in Blackpool Road, Lytham, and were followed by many repeats of this versatile standard design all over Britain. Domestic work gave him scope for his attention to detail and confident handling of space and he designed two houses for his family, the second, at 10 Regent Drive, Lytham, 1965-66, being a strongly articulated geometric composition, now sadly altered. He also designed the Methodist Church at Poulton-le-Fylde, 1965-66, another work using bold forms.

Ingham was involved in a large number of national and local bodies concerned with art and the environment. He had plenty to say in committees, but also gave solid practical help in graphic design and other activities. He was President of the North Lancashire Society of Architects in 1972 and Chairman of the RIBA North-West region in 1975. In 1976 he was elected RIBA Vice-President for Membership and Public Affairs and grasped the importance of communicating architecture to a wider public, something that has taken nearly 20 more years for the RIBA to manifest outwardly. In this role he commissioned four wallsheets illustrated by David Gentleman showing the vernacular and industrial buildings he liked himself.

Always dedicated to the job rather than to personal advancement, Ingham still did not achieve partnership in BDP after 20 years, perhaps because of his single-mindedness in a practice built on team work. When younger men were promoted over him he left in 1978 and set up his own practice; but the end of his marriage and a move from Lytham at the same time meant a still greater upheaval.

During his solo practice he altered and refurbished Joseph Emberton's 1939 Casino at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with a creative sympathy for the original style. He set up Woodscape, a company marketing timber street furniture to his designs when he found none existing to his liking. In 1985 he designed a substantial house with a barn-like, red-tiled, pitched roof, near Blackpool, having persuaded the client that his desire for a symmetrical Georgian house could not be made to work on the site. He continued to serve on Civic Trust juries, having been the recipient of 10 Civic Trust awards for his work and set up a North-West group of the Thirties Society (now Twentieth Century Society).

Recently, Ingham had been studying the scope for a trans-Pennine waterway, a project combining his visionary idealism, love of transport systems and devotion to the North-West, which could by this scheme see continental barges via Hull passing through the Manchester Ship canal on their way to Dublin.

Alan Powers

John Keith Ingham, architect: born 9 July 1932; married 1956 Margaret Dearden (three sons two daughters; marriage dissolved 1979); died Manchester 23 April 1995.

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