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DR WILLIAM BROWN OBE RDI

Chartered Civil and Consulting Engineer and Designer

PETER BUCKLAND

Buckland and Taylor principal Peter Buckland writes: "I have just heard of the death of my old friend William C (Bill) Brown. Any success I may have had in my career I attribute largely to Bill's early coaching, when I worked for him in London at Freeman, Fox & Partners in the early 1960s.

"He always believed that there was a better way to do anything, and even believed that his imagination would be inhibited by looking first to see how other people had solved the same problem. On one occasion I had just put a new piece of paper on my drawing board (FF&P did not provide desks), when Dr Brown walked by and sniffed: 'Ah, a blank sheet of paper, before which all men are equal'"

"Originality was his constant theme, as witness his development with Gilbert Roberts of the revolutionary Severn Bridge, and his daring design for the great Messina Strait Bridge."

"Bill was frequently controversial and did not tolerate fools well, but overall he was a brilliant, gentle man, regarded as a legend by those of us who worked with him even though he was only just over thirty years old at the time."

"I owe a great deal to him, primarily in developing an attitude to the work of bridge engineering that encourages original thought and strives to be better, not just different."

"Bill was a giant of originality in steel, as Jean Muller was in concrete. They set the bar high. The profession has been inspired by them."

ALAN TYE RDI

As a fellow Royal Designer I was always quite stunned and enlivened when talking with Bill. A giant in his field yet humble and gentle, his qualities are rare indeed.

GEOFFREY HARCOURT

Bill and I were elected to the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry in the same year, and I came to know him and Celia well. No one who ever travelled to Wales in those days could escape the elegance and grandeur of his first Severn crossing bridge, but I doubt that he would have known my work in furniture. Nevertheless he had a great admiration for designers whose work was smaller scale than his and when he became Master he sought out fellow RDIs to furnish his office at Brown Beech. I took it as a great compliment that his consultancy bought a table and chairs of my design for their board room and with which Bill was enormously proud. We shared the excitement that comes from making models of our work and his scaled section details which he tested in his own wind tunnel at Brown Beech demonstrated the hands-on style of his approach to bridge design. Every window in the office had to be open when the wind tunnel was in use lest Kensington High Street be showered with falling panes of glass.

When his work took him to Turkey, he and Celia lived in Istanbul for long periods, he invited my wife and I to visit them when ever we were able. It was a truly meant invitation and we regret never taking it up. The gesture was typical of the generosity he showed to his friends and colleagues. He was delighted when I was elected Master of the Faculty and enthusiastically supported an initiative that I put place where RDIs got together for lunch at the RSA and talked of anything and everything. Even later when he fell ill he still enjoyed being among RDIs who he saw as an elite and who he encouraged to share his pride at being so honoured. His passing was such a shock and I was deeply moved to be asked by Celia to give a valedictory address on the occasion of the Memorial service at St James’ Piccadilly where I reminded the large congregation that it is not given to many men that what they can leave behind such a wondrous visual and practical legacy for generations to enjoy and Bill Brown did it with such creative confidence and professional skill.

JOHN BARNARD RDI

I did not know Bill until I became an RDI and then I realised that it was he who was mainly responsible for getting me this prestigious award. I felt a rapport with Bill almost straight away since his interest and knowledge in all things engineering meant that we always had something to talk about. The meetings Bill held for the RDI engineering group at his offices` just off Kensington High street showed me how keen and active he was in the Faculty, even his furniture had been designed and made for him by a fellow RDI.

Bill was by definition a world renowned bridge designer and engineer but it was during one of our meetings at his office that he showed us his own wind tunnel! In another room, not very big, was a small scale wind tunnel created by Bill. By opening various windows through the building and turning on some large fans, it could demonstrate quite adequately how the flow over various bridge spans could cause dangerous aerodynamic oscillations. Although relatively crude in wind tunnel terms it proved the point and demonstrated just what an imaginative and original thinker Bill was.

A big man and a big character, he will be sorely missed by those that knew him and the faculty of Royal Designers for Industry.

John Barnard RDI