It is with great sadness that JTP announce the passing of Founding Director and former Partner, David Harrison affectionately known to all as ‘Harry the Pencil’.
An extraordinarily talented architect, urbanist and skilled artist, Harry had the ability to capture on paper the spirit of places from the street to the sky. For many years, JTP’s projects were illustrated through the wonderful ‘H-aerials’ and beautiful vignettes that he drew. He also played a fundamental role in the practice's community planning work on projects across the UK and internationally.
After leaving school, Harry started work in a local architect’s office in Norwich as an office junior, running errands, delivering post, doing dyeline prints and making tea – all for two guineas a week. Five years and two more architect offices later, and he was earning 30 pounds a week and was described as being ‘good at elevations’. With two A-levels in Art and English Literature and at the fifth attempt – securing a O-level Maths whilst studying at night school, he secured a place at the Architectural Association (AA) to study in London.
Harry studied at the AA from 1969 until 1974 and qualified as an Architect in 1980. By this time, he had worked with a number of other London architects, including Tom Kay, whom he believed taught him more about architecture and buildings than anyone or anything else in his education.
Hangzou Future City China
In 1978 Harry started his hugely successful partnership with John Thompson at Hunt Thompson Associates, and in 1994 after many years of collaboration, Harry and five other colleagues left to become the Founding Directors of John Thompson & Partners (JTP). Harry became a Partner of the practice in 2006 until his retirement in 2017.
Harry was responsible for a huge range of JTP’s projects ranging in scale from mixed-use urban quarters through to the creation of urban extensions and new settlements. His projects included a range of waterside communities including the award-winning Charter Quay project at Kingston-upon-Thames, Putney Wharf, a high-density, mixed-use development that brought a new vitality to a previously neglected waterfront area on the River Thames, Hungate a new neighbourhood of streets and spaces on the River Ouse in York, and Kew Bridge in Brentford overlooking Kew Gardens.
Harry was a vital member of JTP’s community planning team working on projects across the UK in places from Scarborough, Upper Calder Valley in Yorkshire to Caterham Barracks in Surrey, Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport and Crumlin and Shankhill Roads in Belfast.
Internationally he worked across France, Germany, Ireland, Russia and Sweden where he captured the vision and aspirations of the local communities illustrating what new places would look and feel through his wonderful ‘H-aerials’ and vignettes.
John Thompson & David 'Harry' Harrison
Harry’s aerials were JTP’s trademark, and it is suggested he gained this natural talent from his grandfather who in World War One was in the Royal Flying Corps and would go on reconnaissance sketching enemy trenches from hot air balloons.
His paintings and drawings were regularly displayed at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. He always carried a sketchbook, and he had an enviable ability to produce something instantaneously and capture the humility, spirit or soul of a place illustrating life, people, landscape, weather and the seasons.
Harry was a keen birdwatcher and always drew birds in his aerials. A self-confessed ‘bit of an anorak’, he monitored bird populations on his local patch in London’s east end since 1998, and his bird reports have been used by various bird watching and biodiversity groups.
Harry was an extraordinarily talented individual and was the most fantastic artist who started his career as an architect and who evolved into an urbanist. He was stylish, and charismatic with a wonderful sense of humour that enabled him to say things others couldn’t get away with! He was passionate and highly principled about politics and people. His family was so important to him. He will be missed hugely by us all.
Marcus Adams, Managing Partner at JTP
The breadth of Harry’s incredible artwork and legacy is captured in the book ‘Harry the Pencil’ which can be viewed at the following link here.
The story of ‘Harry the Pencil’
“When we had just started to work with Berkeley Homes in the early 1990s, the Chairman was a lovely chap called John Jacobs. One day he said to his team, ‘what we need on this project is a bit of Harry the Pencil’. The name just stuck.”
- Harry the Pencil
Drawing by Harry of The Seven Dials, London
Clifton, Bristol for the Academy of Urbanism