Community architecture pioneer died at the end of December after a long illness, his practice said

John Thompson 1

Source: JTP

John Thompson died at the end of December after a long illness, his practice has announced

JTP founder John Thompson has died at the age of 78, his practice has announced.

Thompson passed away at the end of December after a long illness. In a statement, JTP said he was an “inspirational, thoughtful and highly motivated architect and urbanist” who was passionate about improving the quality of life of the residents of projects which he designed.

Best known as a pioneer of placemaking and community architecture, he was an early advocate of design based on social interaction and everyday life rather than individual buildings.

A graduate of Cambridge School of Architecture, he started his career in the late 1969 when he co-founded Hunt Thompson Associates, now HTA Design, with Bernard Hunt. 

His early works included the seminal Lea View House in Hackney, where he opened an office on the site to enable residents to participate in the transformation of the estate. Charles Knevitt writing in The Times said at the time: “Pride, dignity, and self-respect have been restored at Lea View and community architecture was the process by which it came about.”

In the 1980s, he led a string of inner city regeneration projects across the UK, each using the principles of community architecture and residents’ engagement to enable local people to take control of their neighbourhoods.

In 1986 he became a founder trustee of the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture, now the Prince’s Foundation, a charity established by King Charles III to teach principles of urban design which put communities at the centre of the design process.

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Source: JTP

Thompson was a pioneer of community architecture in the 1970s and 1980s

In 1998, he designed a regeneration of the Caterham Barracks, a former military site, into housing for developer Linden homes. Thompson’s work on masterplanning and transformation projects also extended outside the UK to Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Iceland, Sweden, Ireland and China.

He established the Academy of Urbanism in 2006, a cross sector body which identifies and promotes best practice in placemaking, initially being its founder chairman before becoming honorary president in 2010. 

Thompson’s mission statement for the organisation, which now has 600 members, was: “Great places have the power to fire the imagination of their citizens. No one can create them on their own. If, collectively, we are to create them once again we must first share a common view.”

JTP, which Thompson founded in 1994 after leaving HTA, said he had “led by example” throughout his career and had inspired colleagues with his “natural gift for leadership and gentle persuasion”

Current JTP managing partner Marcus Adams said: “As my teacher and mentor for over 20 years, I can say that John was a one-off. His infectious enthusiasm and unrelenting commitment to creating great places has influenced me hugely and touched many communities and professional collaborators he worked with across the world. John will be greatly missed, though his remarkable legacy lives on and continues to be fostered in our practice’s work at JTP.”

Thompson also held chairman and vice chairman roles on RIBA’s planning and urbanism group between 2004 and 2009.

In 2019, JTP was named as the winner of sister title Building Design’s Best Architect Employer of the Year award. The practice also won Building Design’s Masterplanning and Public Realm Architect of the Year in 2016, and Building’s Architectural Practice of the Year award in 2017.

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Source: JTP

Thompson founded JTP in 1994