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110 OBITUARY Jane Priestman OBE (7 April 1930 – 25 January 2021)


Clockwise Norman Foster’s design for Stansted, the airport’s arrivals area and Nicholas Grimshaw’s International Terminal at Waterloo Station – all of which owe their existence to Jane Priestman


Jane Priestman OBE was an extraordinary influence on the design and architecture professions throughout her life. FX awarded Priestman the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Design prize at the FX Awards 2020. Following her death in January of this year, we reflect on her life and lasting impact.


JANE PRIESTMAN OBE was a British designer best-known for her work with architecture and design for British transport. She took on a series of unprecedented roles in design management, first as general manager in architecture and design for the British Airport Authority from 1975 to 1986, then as director of architecture, design and environment for British Rail. Priestman acted boldly in these roles, asserting the importance of design for everything from furniture to branding, including sourcing the talent for major projects: Nicholas Grimshaw for the International Terminal, Waterloo Station; Norman Foster for Stansted Airport;


designers Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert for the signage across the major UK airports. Priestman initially trained in textile design at the Liverpool College of Art, but became interested in architecture and interior design. She ran her own successful interior design practice for almost 20 years before moving on to the first of her transport-related roles. Her later career included 18 years as chair of Open City, the organisation behind Open House until 2010, while in 2001 she became an Enabler for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).


Priestman has received numerous awards in recognition of her work: in 1985, she became an honorary member of RIBA; in 1991, she was awarded an OBE for her work in design; in 1998, an honorary doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University; and more recently in 2015, Priestman won the inaugural Ada Louise Huxtable prize. FX recently awarded Priestman the Lifetime Contribution


to Design award at the FX Awards 2020, in recognition of her considerable impact on design.


Priestman is recognised as having had a transformative impact throughout her career, both in her work for transport, and by opening doors for women in the professions of design and architecture through the example of her authority and achievements. Even in recent years, she displayed her unfailing ambitions for design, saying in a 2018 interview with the UK Design Council, ‘I long to get hold of the hospitals’. While in an interview for the Architects’ Journal in 2015, she discussed the dwindling power of organisations such as CABE, and the lack of design management in major projects such as Crossrail and HS2, memorably stating of the latter, ‘I could do it with my eyes shut.’ Jane Priestman died on the 25 January 2021, aged 90. She is survived by her sons Matthew and Paul, and her grandsons Sam, Jack and Miles.’


JO REID & JOHN PECK


DENNIS GILBERT


FOSTER + PARTNERS


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