Anthony Collier obituary

Other lives: Architect, teacher, entrepreneur and champion of the importance of art and design to communites

My friend and colleague Anthony Collier, who has died aged 73, was an inspirational teacher, architect and entrepreneur with a belief that, through work with communities, excellent design could be central to the reinvigoration of Britain’s declining cities.

Born in Lancing, West Sussex, Ant was the son of Gwen (nee Halford) and Gerald Collier. He was brought up in Exeter and then in Durham, where his father was principal of Bede College. Ant attended Westminster school in London and studied architecture at Edinburgh University. He subsequently worked for the Greater London council and joined the Neylan and Ungless architectural practice, contributing to award-winning housing schemes.

In 1970 he became a tutor in architecture at Canterbury College of Art, where he set up the Neighbourhood Design Unit, one of the first community architecture initiatives. In 1976, with his wife, Penny (nee Child), whom he had married in 1974, Ant moved to Newcastle. He taught architecture at Newcastle University, I was teaching fine art at Newcastle Polytechnic, and we ran joint projects.

In 1982 Ant was appointed head of the school of architecture at Birmingham Polytechnic, and subsequently dean of its faculty of the built environment. There he created the largest multidisciplinary teaching and research centre for built environment professionals outside London, and edited Design, Technology and the Development Process in the Built Environment (1995).

Ant was a gifted artist, arts promoter and entrepreneur. In 1988 he bought a derelict canalside building and, with colleagues and partners, created The Bond, a pioneering regeneration development in Digbeth, Birmingham, repurposing it as a home for creative businesses. He chaired The Bond Company until 2018; it spawned ideas and initiatives for more than 25 years.

True to his passion, he commissioned and sited contemporary carving and sculpture in the glorious garden Penny created in rural Shropshire. He became a trustee of the Sidney Nolan Trust, working to develop Nolan’s studio in Herefordshire as a centre for contemporary art and forging relationships with artists across the globe.

Ant observed the natural world with an acute sensibility and insight, as a draughtsman and a colourist. In his last 10 years he suffered from motor neurone disease, but continued his creative work, culminating in his Mindwalks programme, which brings artists with severe physical limitations together with non-disabled artists to collaborate on new works.

He is survived by Penny, their children, Edmund, Laura and Guy, and seven grandchildren.

Rod Bugg

The GuardianTramp

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