Ralph Erskine (architect) : biography

24 February 1914 - 16 March 2005

Ralph Erskine founded his own company in Sweden in 1939. In 2000 he invited his long-time collaborator Johannes Tovatt into a partnership, naming the company Erskine Tovatt Arkitekter AB. It was Erskine's will that on his death his name be removed from the company. Therefore his legacy lives on in the company called Tovatt Architects and Planners in Drottningholm outside Stockholm.

In 1984, with his wife he established the Ruth and Ralph Erskine Nordic Foundation, endowed by proceeds from the Wolf Prize in Arts, which he was awarded that year. Beginning in 1988, the foundation has awarded a bi-annual prize of US$10,000 and a medal designed by Ralph Erskine, for any person, group or organization that “has contributed to the construction of buildings or community structures of innovative social, ecological and aesthetic character. The contribution must respect functional and economical aspects, and be to the advantage of the less privileged”.

In 1987 Erskine was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal.

Upbringing and influences

Lådan (the Box) Erskines first home south of Stockholm, built 1941-42, rebuilt 1989 on [[Lovö]] Huddinge, Sweden, designed by Ralph Erskine.]] Gyttorp, Nora, Sweden. Photo: Bengt Oberger]] Gyttorp, Nora, Sweden. Photo: Bengt Oberger]] The "Ortdrivaren" buildings in [[Kiruna.]] Residential area Brittgården at [[Tibro. Photo: Bengt Oberger]] A portion of Newcastle's Byker Wall.

Erskine was born in 1914, in Monliaws, Northumberland, but spent his childhood in Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet (North London). His parents were socialists, adherents of the Fabian Society, which promoted the idea of the evolution of Britain into a socialist state.

His Scottish father was a Presbyterian minister but his parents nonetheless sent him to the Quaker school at Friends School Saffron Walden (1925–1931), probably because of their socialist beliefs. There, he became committed to the Quaker ideals, which laid the foundation for his views on society, man's place in it, and on architecture.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine