Sir Michael Hopkins
Sir Michael John Hopkins CBE RA (7 May 1935 – 17 June 2023) was an English architect.
The RIBA Royal Gold Medal-winning architect founded Hopkins Architects with his wife Patty and was widely regarded as among the greatest of contemporary British architectural figures. Michael, alongside Patty, was part of a select group of leading British architects who were regarded as the founders of the “High-Tech” architectural movement (the other four included Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Nicholas Grimshaw and Terry Farrell).
Life and career
While studying at the Architectural Institute, Hopkins met Patty Wainwright (later Hopkins), who would go on to be his life long collaborator. The couple married in 1962.
Hopkins partnered with Norman Foster, where he was the project architect of the Willis Faber headquarters in Ipswich. With Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Terry Farrell and Nicholas Grimshaw, both Hopkins and his wife were leading figures in the introduction of high-tech architecture into Britain.
In 1976 Hopkins set up what became Hopkins Architects in partnership with his wife, who had run her own practice. One of their first buildings was their own house in Hampstead, a lightweight steel structure with glass façades. Early Hopkins Architects’ buildings, such as the Greene King brewery in Bury St Edmunds and the Schlumberger laboratories near Cambridge, used new materials and construction techniques. The firm challenged conventional architectural wisdom by demonstrating that lightweight steel-and-glass structures could be energy efficient and pioneered the use in Britain of permanent lightweight fabric structures, of which the Mound Stand at Lord’s Cricket Ground is a notable example. From the mid-1980s the practice began to explore what they called the “updating of the traditional materials”, adding to the expressive potential of traditional crafts like masonry and carpentry by combining them with contemporary engineering. The practice became recognised for its combination of ultra-modern techniques with traditional architecture, broadening their palette of materials and forms.
Together, the Hopkins received the Royal Institute of British Architects Royal Gold Medal, awarded in 1994. The citation describes the Hopkins’ work as “not only a matter of exploiting technology to build beautifully, nor simply of accommodating difficult and changing tasks in the most elegant way, but above all of capturing in stone and transmitting in bronze the finest aspirations of our age”, praising their contribution to the debate about the “delicate relationship between modernity and tradition” and adding: “For Hopkins, progress is no longer a break with the past but rather an act of continuity where he deftly and intelligently integrates traditional elements such as stone and wood, with advanced and environmentally responsible technology.”
Hopkins died from vascular dementia on 17 June 2023, at the age of 88.
Honours and awards
Hopkins House, Hampstead (1976)
The London 2012 Olympic Velodrome. Stratford, London
Portcullis House, Westminster, London
Mound Stand at Lords Cricket Ground (left)