Martin Taylor obituary

Other lives: Architect who retained a great enthusiasm for learning

My father, Martin Taylor, who has died aged 81, had a favourite phrase that he liked to employ if my brother David and I played up as children. He used to call us “obstreperous so-and- so’s”.

Something similar could be said to describe his own personality. The son of working-class Jewish parents, he was expelled from school and went on to study by himself, gaining a diploma in architecture. He then made his living as an architect – a job he loved – until his late 70s.

He was born in Stoke Newington, north London, to Maurice, a tailor who changed his surname from Tobovitch to Taylor, and a Polish mother, Regina (nee Przepiorka), who died from cancer when Martin was eight years old.

He attended Tottenham County school, where an argument with a sports teacher over his participation in the weekly cross-country run escalated, resulting in his expulsion when he was 16. He then studied for his exams at home and gained a place at Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) to study architecture.

He met Jean Hersh at a local drama group, the Cameo Players, where he was volunteering as a set designer. After they married in 1963 they moved to Leeds, where Martin worked in an architect’s practice and their children were born.

In 1970 our family to Bexley, Kent, and my father worked at the Brunton Boobyer partnership in Greenwich, south-east London. We visited him there often and I have vivid memories of his office, crammed with drawing boards, set rules and rubber stamps of people, cars, buses and trees, that he used to create backgrounds for his drawings.

In 1978 he left the firm to set up his own practice in Dartford. Over his career he designed for a number of interesting projects, including leisure facilities for workers at the Tate & Lyle sugar factory near the Blackwall tunnel and a refuge for women and their families at the Peckham Settlement in south London.

He retained a lifelong enthusiasm for learning. My parents went away at weekends to take courses in everything from identifying British trees to Scottish country dancing and fungi foraging.

In his 30s he drove us through Europe with a tiny dinghy attached to the back of the car, so that we could sail in the Adriatic; he went rock climbing on the Old Man of Storr in Skye; and learned to play the viola in middle age.

He also showed fortitude in his 60s when he had to face what at the time was experimental deep brain stimulation surgery at King’s College hospital to control his Parkinson’s disease. The results enhanced his quality of life until his death.

Although fierce in his beliefs – he was committed to the Labour party and many causes for social justice – he was also a man of great patience, kindness and serenity, who could be reduced to tears over his favourite piece of Schubert.

He is survived by Jean, David and me, and by his grandchildren, Owen, Emily and Miriam.

Rebecca Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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