Obituary: Gareth Hoskins, OBE, architect

Gareth Hoskins, nnovative and adventurous architect famed for his re-imaginings of public spaces. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Gareth Hoskins, nnovative and adventurous architect famed for his re-imaginings of public spaces. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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Born: 15 April, 1967, in Edinburgh. Died: 9 January, 2016, in Edinburgh, aged 48.

Gareth Hoskins was one of the most celebrated architects to emerge in Scotland in the past two decades. He established Hoskins Architects in Glasgow in 1998 and it has grown to become a force in the Scottish architectural industry and abroad – recently opening a German office in Berlin. The practice submitted its contentious plans to convert the Royal High School on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill into a 147-room luxury hotel – which were narrowly rejected.

Hoskins’s imaginative proposals, he argued, would have greatly improved the Calton Hill area and would have included a new art gallery in the Observatory. Last October, he secured the commission to design the £6.5 million new centre to house the National Theatre of Scotland to be called Rockvilla close to Speirs Wharf in Glasgow.

Willie Watt, president of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), said: “Gareth’s sad death is a tremendous loss to architecture in Scotland. His prolific and award-winning firm has been among the leading architectural practices in Scotland for nearly two decades.

“Gareth’s international reputation was growing steadily and he was a tremendous ambassador for Scottish architecture. As all who knew him will testify, he was a very nice man who, despite his success and growing fame, was invariably modest.”

Hoskins firstly trained as an architect at the Glasgow School of Art and then completed his studies at Florence University. In 1992 he joined Penoyre & Prasad as an associate, where he worked on projects such as the visitors’ centre at Belmarsh Prison and Wolverhampton Civic Halls. He returned to Scotland in1998 and set up his own business in Glasgow. The company was awarded several prestigious commissions and established a name for producing creative and innovative designs.

The firm took on several commissions in the healthcare sector and was involved in large-scale regeneration and commercial projects – including the Art Park at Bellahouston, the architecture gallery at the V&A Museum, the Mackintosh Interpretation Centre at The Lighthouse, Robin House at Balloch, the award-winning Culloden Battlefield Memorial Centre and the ticket office for the Edinburgh Tattoo. It was a reflection of the comprehensive nature of Hoskins’ ability that his firm was able to undertake such substantial and varied buildings.

Hoskins Architects was responsible for the dramatic redesign of the National Museum of Scotland in the capital. When it was reopened in 2011 it was afforded international acclaim – “you enter one of Scotland’s finest and most unexpected new public spaces” wrote one correspondent. It won the 2011 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland award and a special award from the Civic Trust in 2012. In 2006, the firm won the national competition to design Mareel, Shetland’s cinema and music venue. The wonderful futuristic building is situated on the waterfront at Lerwick. Another national competition his firm won was the £30m expansion of the Aberdeen Art Gallery. The inspired plans include improved gallery space and better visitor facilities affording fine views over the city. The Gallery is scheduled to open next year.

But Hoskins’s renown soon became known internationally – for example, he designed the acclaimed “Gathering Space” for the 2008 Venice Biennale and the World Museum in Vienna.

As a local man, Hoskins showed a keen interest in potential design projects in the Helensburgh & Lomond area – he and his family made their home in Helensburgh in 2003. He created proposals for a new swimming and leisure complex on Helensburgh’s pier, assisted Hermitage Primary school with a play area, and produced a proposal for the Helensburgh Heroes charity to restore the former East Clyde Street School into a community centre. A year ago, the practice was given the go-ahead to revamp Helensburgh’s Hermitage Park.

Hoskins was widely admired for his determination to improve and enhance the architecture of Scotland and to preserve its remarkable heritage. He was recognised in the profession as a hugely talented architect, a charismatic businessman and a man of humanity, integrity, charm and wit. He was generous with his time and advice to young architects and found time to coach Helensburgh’s junior rugby team. Hoskins, who was awarded the OBE in 2010, suffered a heart attack at a fencing event at Fettes College.

Hoskins won UK Young Architect of the Year in 2000, UK Architect of the Year in 2006 and Scottish Architect of the Year in 2009. He headed the 2008 in Architecture Scotland’s Power 100 and also that year was awarded the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award.

Chris Coleman-Smith, Hoskins’ co-director, has said: “Everyone at the practice is missing Gareth more than I can say. He was a very special person; a gifted architect who had a unique empathy with people and understood that buildings are for people to use, live and work in. More than that, he had a remarkable ability to create elegant, yet rational, solutions and to articulate that vision beautifully.”

Hoskins is survived by wife Sarah and their two children.