'Florian’s legacy is assured'

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Florian Beigel has inspired generations of architects with his ability to communicate through words, drawings and buildings, says Julian Lewis

Florian Beigel, who sadly died last week at the age of 76, was an exceptional architect and educator who has had a profound and lasting impact and influence on my architectural education and practice development over more than 20 years. He introduced me, and many others, to a fresh world of ideas in architecture; ideas about everyday life that could be manifested into space and architecture.

I met him in the mid 1980s as a degree student at the Polytechnic of North London, where Florian had founded the Architecture Research Unit (ARU). The Half Moon Theatre was on site and he showed us round. I remember the way in which he used his whole body, dramatically crouching, to emulate the idea of the steel entrance doors as a falling filigree curtain; an invitation to enter the street space of the theatre. The open windowed blockwork walls of the street buildings, the dark blue steel ceiling-as-sky and the trussed roof structure with tubular vertical struts standing in for processional columns leading through at a slight angle to the young people’s theatre beyond, all had something to say about the city that already existed, not just the new. This was not just an invigorating spectacle of architecture representing the theatre of real life on the street, it was an example of how architecture could become formed through ideas about the city and its people.

The Half Moon Theatre was a built treatise on the city, not just one building but an urban grouping of architectures organised to join in with and amplify the life, space and image of the street.

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