Sir James Dyson remembers Chris Wilkinson
Following the passing of WilkinsonEyre founder and the architect behind many of Dyson's buildings, Sir James Dyson remembers Chris Wilkinson.
This is hugely saddening, we will miss Chris enormously and all our thoughts are with Diana, Dominic and Zoe.
I was introduced to Chris by my structures tutor at the Royal College, Tony Hunt, in 1994 to develop our first purpose-built Dyson factory. I hadn’t worked with an architect before, but Chris asked lots of questions and immediately started sketching out his ideas. He did not come rushing in and say ‘this is what you should do’ instead he listened, quickly got deep into the specifics, and was excited to try daring new approaches; so he seemed to be the right man for the job!
Chris was beside us at every stage of our expansion, over the nearly thirty years since then, conceiving many schemes that were built and more that were not. He was always generous with his time, gentle, highly creative and humble about his well-deserved and significant international successes. Notably, he was always utterly respectful of the budget, not pushing for extravagance – an admirable, and unusual, quality in an architect!
It has always been very important that Dyson’s people work in inspiring spaces and Chris has delivered that over and over. He believed that buildings should be a marriage of architecture, art, design and technology and he had a fantastic ability to create spaces that are exciting, uplifting and inventive. The breadth of his work was stunning.
Chris helped us create the Dyson Campus at Malmesbury and oversaw the restoration of our Campus at Hullavington Airfield, he helped create the concept for our Demo stores and designed the flagship stores in Paris, Oxford Street, San Francisco and Fifth Avenue, with its 50mm thick and the tallest possible one piece of glass. He conceived radical new education spaces for the Dyson Institute and the Gresham’s School STEAM building.
The wavy roofed main building at Malmesbury achieved many firsts but having clean, rather than recirculated air, has proved itself to be perhaps the most ahead of its time; D9 with its daring structural glass; our Undergraduate Village of cross-laminated factory-built pods; the Roundhouse clubhouse, and our restoration of the vast hangars Hullavington Airfield are radical in their own way. These buildings all reflect Chris and his approach, as will the unfinished projects with which we press-on. There will be no substitute for this creative and lovely man.
Photograph by David Vintner