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Brian Shawcroft

1929 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Brian Shawcroft Obituary
Brian Shawcroft


Brian Shawcroft, AIA , died in Raleigh, North Carolina, on December 18, 2017.He was a leading modernist architect, photographer, and educator in North Carolina for nearly 50 years.

Brian was born February 24, 1929, and grew up in Nottingham and Essex, England, where he listened to German bombers flying over his house at night. From early childhood, he was interested in hand drawing and watercolors, which he practiced for the rest of his life. While serving with the British Army in Germany, he began to study photography, another lifelong avocation.

Brian graduated from West Essex Technical College in 1953 with a degree in architecture. After working as an intern architect in London and as an architect in Toronto, Canada, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to work for the renowned architect Eduardo Catalano from 1956-1959.

He received his Master of Architecture degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in 1960. From then on, he was an Associate Professor at the (then) School of Design at North Carolina State University, teaching photography and architectural design.

"I have never learned more on any subject in a shorter time," wrote Randy Croxton, one of his students, "nor has such a brief learning experience contributed more to my professional life than photography taught by Brian Shawcroft."

He was a member of the full-time faculty until 1968. His relationship with the School of Design continued for the rest of his life, initially as a part time Lecturer and then later when he funded the Shawcroft Prize, awarded annually to an architecture student for superior hand drawing skills.

After practicing with various architectural firms, Brian established Shawcroft-Taylor with Clay Taylor in Raleigh in 1971, thereafter designing institutional and commercial buildings that helped to define Raleigh as a center of good design. "Brian was fierce in his love for Modern architecture," Charlotte architect Murray Whisnant said. "It was his belief that it could enrich our lives."

For his integrity and respect for the Modern Movement in architecture, he was awarded the Kamphoefner Prize in 1991.

Brian also designed over two dozen houses. The last is a duplex in Raleigh, which he designed shortly before his death. His houses were, in the words of Professor Emeritus Paul Tesar, "...a rich world of well-proportioned spaces of simple elegance -- sometimes intimate, sometimes dramatic -- seamlessly flowing into one another and connecting inside and outside as if they were one."

Brian was a prize-winning photographer and architect, but perhaps his most long-lasting influence is seen in the work of his students who practice throughout the world. "He called for a deep level of personal engagement," Croxton wrote, "and an unshakable expectation of excellence" -- words that could describe Brian Shawcroft himself.

Brian was a skilled tennis player and a highly sought-after dance partner. He loved classical music, jazz, opera, ballet, and fast Jaguar sports cars. Parties at his house often ended with him playing jazz on his grand piano.

On his deathbed in palliative care, he was offered extreme life-prolonging procedures. He declined. Instead, he asked for, and received, a martini.

He is survived by his life partner, Kathleen Gruer. A party is planned at a later date.
Published in The News & Observer on Dec. 31, 2017
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