We were very sorry to hear of the death, at the age of 78, of architect Rafael Viñoly. Among Rafael's vast portfolio of work is our own Andrew Wiles Building which opened almost ten years ago in October 2013 and which has been an integral part of our work in making mathematics accessible and enjoyable for our faculty, researchers, students, support staff and the wider general public.
From the outset Rafael rapidly dispelled any initial concern that an international superstar with many visually striking buildings to his credit would not focus on the mundane interests of the eventual users of the building. He gave us a huge amount of his time and spent many hours in meetings developing his ideas and quizzing us on ours. As he himself has put it, he went 'beyond the decorative approach', setting out really to improve the experience of the occupants, and in turn, the wider public who have subsequently visited the building for talks, theatre and exhibitions. And it was a bonus that Rafael came from a mathematical family, and had no difficulty in understanding the nature of our work.
We were also very fortunate in having the support of Lavinia and Landon Clay. Lavinia Clay joined the project sponsor group, and gave it the benefit of her considerable experience and architectural insight without ever trying to impose her own vision, or even to put the family name on the building. In her and Rafael Viñoly we had the ideal combination of donor and architect.
As a result we have a building that is both welcoming and inspiring. If you are passing, come and have a look.
You can read a letter about Rafael written to the Guardian newspaper this week from former Head of the Mathematical Institute, Sam Howison.