Ralph Erskine was born in London on 24 February 1914. He graduated from the
Regent Street Polytechnic in London in 1938 and moved to Sweden a year later,
shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. After the war and after
further study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, Erskine set up a practice
in Drottningholm, Stockholm, in partnership with the architect Aage Rosenvold.
Erskine made his reputation at first in Sweden where he designed a large number of houses, schools, apartment buildings and urban plans. His first commission to build in his native country was to design a range of buildings for Clare Hall, the Cambridge postgraduate college. As his reputation grew, more buildings followed, most notably, in 1969, the much admired Byker housing scheme near Newcastle upon Tyne, and in 1990 the Ark in Hammersmith, London. In his work Erskine experimented with designs that depend on user participation and environmental compatibility. These were also the topics that he brought to the Team 10 discussions, and they reflected his experience of working in a northern country governed according to social democratic ideals.
Erskine’s career included frequent lecture tours to the US, Canada and Japan, and he was made an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1966 and of the Swedish Royal Academy of Arts in 1972. He was a visiting professor at the Technische Hochschule, Zurich (1964-65) and at McGill University, Montreal (1967-68). He was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1987.
Erskine was present at the last CIAM congress in Otterlo in 1959, where he presented his scheme for an arctic town; he subsequently took part in the Team 10 meetings from that moment on. However, Erskine was always a relative outsider to the Team 10 discourse. In his pragmatic view the Team 10 meetings were too theoretical.
Ralph Erskine died on 16 March 2005.
See also the website of the former office of Erskine: Tovatt Architects and Planners AB