The Twentieth Century Society

Obituary: Beak Adams

By Rob Adams

Brian (Beak) Adams was born in 1923 in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. A gifted draughtsman with a natural aptitude for design, his talents were encouraged by the sympathetic art department at his school, Bryanston.  He went straight from school into war service with the Royal Engineers, where he designed camouflage and decoys, including bogus tanks. He also regularly exhibited his landscape paintings.  On de-mob he enrolled at the Architectural Association School in London. He was a top student, winning the SADG Medal, awarded for the best student of the session.

His first job was with the Hertfordshire County Architect’s Department engaged on the ‘Hertfordshire Experiment’, the now celebrated programme to design new primary schools. Here he was directly involved in promoting innovative  designs and pioneering techniques, involving  both the development of  a new contemporary  aesthetic and the use of prefabricated construction.

In 1950, following three years with Hertfordshire, he was drawn into the new housing division at the LCC Architects Department created by Robert Matthew.  Here he spent five years at a time when it became a leading generator of new ideas in British architecture.  In 1955 he went into private practice with Gordon and Eleanor Michel, where his first major building was Bute House Preparatory School for Girls, Hammersmith (1956). In 1961 he formed his own practice, B L Adams Architects, initially with offices in Kensington Church Street above the newly-opened Biba.  Much of the work was subcontracted by local authorities, and included sheltered housing projects, schools and libraries. The firm won a number of Civic Trust and other design awards.

In 1970 he amalgamated his firm with Green Lloyd and Son to form Green Lloyd Adams.

He immediately set about modernising the practice and its delightfully quaint office building in Pickering Place, W1. One of many protégés was his son, Rob Adams, who established his own practice, now called Adams + Collingwood Architects.  During the 1970s he increasingly specialised in interiors for shops and public buildings, including the ‘ace café’ (now sadly lost) at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Davidoff Cigars shop on the corner of St. James’s and Jermyn Street. His final design work was 10 Aldersgate in the City of London.  He retired from architectural practice in 1987.

He continued painting throughout his career, exhibiting regularly in the RA Summer Exhibition. After his retirement he was still a regular exhibitor, with a national reputation as a sensitive draughtsman and masterful watercolourist.

Brian (Beak) Lemesle Adams, born 30 July 1923, died 28 November 2011

Published January 2012