Memories of a remarkable architect
29 September, 2017
Kenneth Pring with wife Connie
• I WAS sad to learn of the death last week at the age of 80 of Kenneth Pring, an architect who contributed much to Islington, especially to Barnsbury, both in terms of what he saved by his own efforts at a time in the 1960s when much of what is now admired was scheduled for demolition, and in terms of what he added (Architect who was hailed as the man who saved Islington, September 29).
Most of Barnsbury Road, south of Copenhagen Street, and the north side of Barnsbury Street, west of Liverpool Road, now much-loved terraces of late Georgian or early Victorian houses, would probably be gone if it had not been for his efforts to show that they could be restored and converted for current use.
Nevertheless, when he did build new alongside these saved buildings, he built in a forthright, powerfully-modelled, late-Brutalist style, using recycled bricks with deeply-raked joints and frankly-expressed rough concrete lintels and beams.
He belonged to the generation that rejected the high-rise ideas of his forebears and preferred a ground-hugging, dense format inspired notably by Italian hill towns – to which his generation was probably the first to have easy access.
So his developments, such as Barnsbury Mews and Marlow Mews for Barnsbury Housing Association, of which he was a co-founder, reflect that preference for narrow, almost-warren-like urban spaces. When they open out, such as in the square off the north of Barnsbury Street, the effect can be magical.
The meeting of his tough new architecture and the old architecture he fought to retain (and sometimes to rebuild), such as Richmond Avenue and Thornhill Road, can be dramatic and convincing – reflecting a designer with confidence in his own ideas.
These are works that certainly merit local listing, so that they can continue to inspire alongside the memory of a remarkable man.
James Dunnett Architects
Barnsbury Road, N1