In memory of Professor Lionel March, 1934-2018

Lionel March (1934 - 2018)

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Professor Lionel March on 20 February 2018.

Lionel March was an early contributor and key figure in the field of design and computation as well as design methods. He started his academic life as a mathematician before moving on to architecture and his synthesis of the two disciplines marked out his scholarly work, which remains influential today. 

Lionel was initially Professor of Systems Engineering at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, before moving to The Open University (UK) as Professor of Design Technology. He was a briefly Rector for the Royal College of Art during a turbulent period in the early 80s, where he attempted to make mathematics a compulsory part of all teaching programmes.  He took up an Emeritus position as a Professor of Design and Computation at UCLA and returned to the UK at Cambridge University, founding the Centre for Land Use and Built Form Studies.

Lionel was the Founding Editor of the influential academic journal Environment and Planning B and will be remembered by many DRS members for his insightful theoretical and practical contributions to design research.

Following is a quote from the Cambridge University memorium following his death:

As a schoolboy, Lionel March’s mathematical work had attracted the admiration of Alan Turing and, when he went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge, it was to read mathematics. However, after one year, he transferred to architecture. During this period he was designer for a number of plays and operas, including two in London, at Sadler’s Wells.

Some of his early work in serial art was the subject of an Institute of Contemporary Art exhibition in 1962. He was the designer both of the University’s Cambridge plan of 1962 and, working in the studio of Leslie Martin, of the Whitehall plan of 1964. It was while working on the latter that he hit on the court and pavilion theory, developed with Martin, applied in practice by Richard MacCormac and rediscovered in 1999 by the Urban Task Force.

March was a pioneer in connecting design with  computation, and he founded “Environment and Planning B” which has since become the top academic journal in this field. Among his other interests was the work of Rudolph Schindler (he lived in Schindler’s How House) and classical mathematics – which he used to correct Wittkower’s interpretations fifty years earlier.