Brian Shawcroft
1929 - 2017
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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.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The News and Observer on Dec. 31, 2017.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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27 entries
June 17, 2018
A dear friend.
Marilouise Mattson
June 6, 2018
I was at Meymandi Hall last night and thought about Brian and discussions we had had when it was refurbished. I used to run into him at the Art Museum every year during the patrons evening and noticed I didnt this year. I looked him up and discovered his obituary. Im so sorry to hear of his passing. Rest In Peace
Ilene Freedman
January 31, 2018
Well Damn. I'm truly saddened that I will never get a chance to see Brian again. What great stories. What great memories. What a great influence he was!
Parker Platt
January 31, 2018
Brian and friends from the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, Hibernian Irish Pub, Raleigh, 2005.
Brian was a big help and warm supporter when I wrote my dissertation on Henry Kamphoefner and the N.C. School of Design. I will never forget his kindness and multifaceted intellect. He was a living cultural landmark.
David Brook
January 21, 2018
He was such a hoot - he would always make me laugh. I'll miss him.
Marlys de Alba
January 18, 2018
I've lost my chance to see him again. Now I revive memories of his visits without his help. He was a good friend of my parents, and made wonderful shop talk with my father, Roy Gussow.
Olga Gussow Hauptman
January 12, 2018
There's so much to say about Brian.....he was my teacher, mentor, colleague and friend, not to mention former neighbor-around-the-corner. My best memory of him is of the time between my 4th and 5th year of design school when I was given an exchange fellowship to London. On the evening after we fellows had arrived, there was a big party with the British students at the Architectural Association School on Bedford Square. To my surprse, in walked Brian, who had come over for the summer to visit with family. We were a bit surprised to see each other and he asked me if I had seen anything of London yet. I said no....that we had only just arrived. So he said, "Come on." and he ushered me out the front door and there on the curb ( "kerb" in England ), was his little Austin-Healy 3000 sports car, which he had shipped over with him on the boat. He put me in that car and drove me all over the city, pointing out imporant historical and architectural landmarks along the way. I will never forget this extreme kindness. As far as I know, Brian and I were among the very few practicing architects who still insisted upon doing all our drawings by hand, eschewing the computer. We had so many good laughs over the years, and I will miss him for as long as I'm still around.

Gene Brown
Eugene Brown
January 7, 2018
So sorry to hear of Brian's passing. He and Kathy introduced me to Charlie Burkhead, who became my life partner and best friend until his death in 2013. Will always be grateful for that.
Sincere condolences,
January 6, 2018
Brian will be missed.
Eugene Langford
January 5, 2018
I've enjoyed Brian's friendship since 1977. He always had an honest interest in what was going on in my life. Years would pass and we would reconnect at the Third Place two doors down from my office under the Five Points Pharmacy. Everyone who worked with me were friends of Brian and he kept us thinking about design and the world.
In the past few years Brian would always be at the galleries on First Fridays and we always had a good laugh or two.

For the last two years we have spent time sipping coffee at Cup of Joes, swaping stories and just talking with friends. After missing him for a few weeks and getting a little worried I finally saw him there and said "Hey Brian, I haven't seen you in a while"
He said "I'm still here" and we laughed. We knew it would not be too much longer.
Brian, you are definately still here....Thanks for everything.
Andy Lawrence
January 5, 2018
When I came to NC in 1986, I was fortunate to get a job working for Shawcroft/Taylor. Brian informed and enhanced my love for Modernist design. I will forever be grateful for his mentoring and friendship. God speed, my friend!
Michael Huslage
January 3, 2018
At Cup a Joe - Brian always supported my adventures! Miss you, dear friend!
Sandy Green
January 3, 2018
Brian and I would meet for lunch in Cameron Village and he'd regale me with tales of his life! He was a great man, a sweet friend and I'll miss him!
Ann Marie Baum
January 2, 2018
I will miss our chats at CupAJoe, Brian
Alison Stephens
January 2, 2018
To have known this man was an experience to savor. Knowledgeable, opinionated and generally hilarious, Brian was the complete professional. Working with him 9and his buddy, Al Wolfheimer) at Raleigh Little Theatre was one of the highlights of my professional life. As the years went by and buildings grew up from the ground in downtown Raleigh, Brian would drop by my office to chat and tell me what he thought of the edifices. Mostly unprintable....but I rarely laughed that much at anything! Loved and will be greatly missed. Thank you, Brian, for giving so much.
Eleanor Oakley
December 30, 2017
Adieu Brian. Tu nous manques déjà!
December 29, 2017
In 1989, I met Brian through our mutual friend Charlie Bulkhead, when I was Charlie's studio mate at Artspace. Upon our first how-do-you-do, Brian proceeded to impress me with 1. explaining he was a founding member of a Raleigh film society that met to screen difficult-to-find films and 2. alerting me to a new disease in Africa that caused victims to bleed from every orifice (Ebola.) An unforgettable conversation. Brian became my friend, supporter and my partner in conversations regarding the weightier matters of the world. They broke the mold with Brian, and I will miss him.
Andrea Gomez
December 29, 2017
I met Brian at a book club with Kathy and latter saw him many times at Cuppa joe his second home. . I always enjoyed talking to him about England and Australia . A great bloke who will be greatly missed
Ken Pollock Raleigh
December 28, 2017
Friend and Mentor
John and Holly Thompson
December 28, 2017
Brian talks architecture with Howard Garriss at Carolina Yacht Club.
Howard Garriss
December 27, 2017
I'll miss you, my friend.
John Coffey
December 27, 2017
I did not expect Thurs. Nov. 2, 2017 to be my last time w/ Brian. We attended the Catalano Symposium @ NCSU and shared a drink or two later @ his house. Brian could be / was highly critical but underneath... that was not the case. He was one of few during my time @ the School of Design who was actually an architect that had been in the trenches, knew the outside world of the profession. He brought much of "old school" to the School... rigorous studio project requirements, spur of the moment design charrettes, drawing exercises over holidays, etc...

Vernon Shogren suggested I sign up for Brian's studio my senior year. I thank Vernon for that advice... I thank Brian for sharing his knowledge an insight.

You need not always agree but exposure can be / was for me beneficial. THANK YOU BRIAN !!! God Bless!
Edgar Carr
December 26, 2017
I have enjoyed sharing coffee and conversation with Brian for several years at Cup-A-Joe on Hillsborough Street. It was a pleasure and an honor to have known him. His expertise and advice on many subjects is something I will cherish forever. In his honor, I will have a martini - very dry - on New Year's Eve.
Anthony Hayes
December 26, 2017
It was a privilege knowing you, Brian, and I only hope yours was an easy and peaceful passage. Auf Wiedersehen, and God bless you and your family.
Tobias Kaiser
December 25, 2017
The last time I saw Brian. Hunt Library. April 6, 2016.
Good bye, old friend.
Y.R. Owens
December 22, 2017
I met Brian in mid 1960s, soon after he arrived in NC. A handsome dude with a British accent, he was sunning himself on the rocks at Oriental. We had a spirited conversation about everything he thought was wrong with USA, and I told him to go back to England. For the next half-century we commiserated about marriages and divorces of our own and friends we had in common, and Brian was a shelter for me. He was attracted to intelligent, accomplished women, not in the least intimidated by them, and women appreciated him. His art and architecture have earned admiration. Brian was especially lucky to partner with Kathy Gruer, who has been his stalwart companion. I don't know what Cupajoe in Raleigh will do without him. And I shall certainly miss Brian; he was unique, one of a kind.
Anne Russell
December 20, 2017
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
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