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Chris Wilkinson RA (1945 - 2021)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Chris Wilkinson made his reputation with a series of long span, lightweight structures which reflected his roots in the high tech movement and his particular interest in large clear span sheds. After spells working with Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Michael Hopkins, he set up Chris Wilkinson Architects in 1983 which became WilkinsonEyre four years later when Jim Eyre became a partner. The firm made Its reputation with the Market Depot and station at Stratford on the Jubilee Line Extension, and received the RIBA’s Stirling Prize for the best building of the year by a British architect, for the Magma Science Centre in Rotherham (2001) and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (2002).

Both these projects show how Wilkinson has developed the high tech tradition from its origins as rhetorical expressions of construction and material, to an ability to communicate narrative and metaphor. Magma is essentially a series of pods where visitors can play with and begin to understand how earth, air, fire and water behave, all located within the cavernous spaces of a vast redundant steel mill. Meanwhile, by opening to let boats through as well as providing opportunities to linger over the River Tyne, the Gateshead Millenium Bridge invites contemplation of its surroundings. Elegant bridges where structure traces fine filigree patterns which recall natural forms, are a hallmark of the practice, and the command of structure they demand is also reflected in their growing roster of skyscraper designs.

Wilkinson’s ability to weave narrative into architecture is also evident in a series of visitor destinations. Explore@Bristol turned a railway shed into a science exploration centre, while the National Waterfront Museum tells the story of the industrial and maritime past of Wales, interleaving new construction with existing buildings and exhibition installations. The massive King’s Waterfront arena, conference and exhibition centre, on the Mersey bank in Liverpool, marks a jump in scale. However, the way it fits with the city’s distinctive skyline shows a similar sensitivity to introducing new objects into an established setting.

Wilkinson’s contribution to architecture has been recognised by the award of an OBE in the Millennium Honours List, election to the Royal Academy of Arts in 2006, and an Honorary Fellowship of the American Institute of Architecture in 2007. In addition to the Stirling Prize for Magma and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, WilkinsonEyre has also received received the RIBA Lubetkin Prize for the Guangzhou International Finance Centre in China (2012) and for the Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore (2003). Current projects include the restoration of Battersea Power Station, the re-use of three Grade II-listed gasholders in King’s Cross to provide 145 apartments, a landmark tower overlooking Sydney Harbour, a new tower in the heart of the City of London and the continuing expansion of Dyson’s Research and Development Headquarters. Wilkinson is the author of Supersheds, The Sketchbooks of Chris Wilkinson and co-author of Bridging Art & Science, Exploring Boundaries, Techtonics and Wilkinson Eyre Architects/Works.

At the Royal Academy, Chris Wilkinson chaired the Client Committee overseeing the redevelopment of 6 Burlington Gardens until 2018. He was responsible for hanging the Architecture Room within the Summer Exhibition in 2012 with Eva Jiricna RA and presented the sculpture Landscape to Portrait in the Annenberg Courtyard in the same year designed with Diana and Dominic Wilkinson. Chris Wilkinson RA served as the Treasurer of the Royal Academy from 2018-2020.


Royal Academician


Born: 1 July 1945 in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom

Died: 14 December 2021

Nationality: British

Elected RA: 27 March 2006

Elected Senior RA: 1 October 2021

Treasurer: 19th March 2018 - 31st October 2020

Gender: Male

Visit Chris Wilkinson RA (1945 - 2021)'s website

Preferred media: Architecture

Works by Chris Wilkinson in the RA Collection

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Works associated with Chris Wilkinson in the RA Collection

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Associated archives

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