Vale Stephen Ashton, 1954–2016

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Steve Ashton at ARM's Leicester Street office, Melbourne (1988).

Steve Ashton at ARM’s Leicester Street office, Melbourne (1988). Image: Courtesy of ARM Architecture

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Steve Ashton, Ian McDougall and Howard Raggatt launch ARM Architecture (1988).

Steve Ashton, Ian McDougall and Howard Raggatt launch ARM Architecture (1988). Image: Courtesy of ARM Architecture

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Steve Ashton (2016).

Steve Ashton (2016). Image: John Gollings

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Stephen Ashton, one of the founding directors of Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM Architecture), passed away on Monday 25 July, aged 61. He had been suffering from mesothelioma.

In April 2016, Ashton and his ARM co-founders Howard Raggatt and Ian McDougall were announced as the recipients of the Australian Institute of Architects 2016 Gold Medal.

In a statement, ARM said: “In honour of a remarkable man, a person of the highest ethics and intelligence, of humour and patience: Steve Ashton, the first letter of ARM, passed away peacefully on Monday 25 July.

“Steve guided and mentored us though his deep understanding of fine architecture and how it is created and then realized. A national expert at the arcane machinery of construction delivery, he knew how to balance toughness and fairness from the first day of a commission to the day the building opened. He was an exceptional architectural all-rounder and, outside work, a rally driver of the highest skill and distinction.

“We miss him and remember him with the greatest love.”

Ashton served as the Victorian Chapter President from 1990–92 and became a life fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects in 1998.

National President of the Australian Institute of Architects, Ken Maher, expressed “great sadness” at the passing of Ashton.

“We would like to pass on our sincere condolences to Steve’s family, friends and colleagues. He will be greatly missed by the architecture community and remembered for his incredible dedication to the practice of architecture, challenging the status quo and inspiring clients, colleagues and students alike.

“Over three decades, Steve along with his co-directors, has made a significant contribution to Australia’s cultural landscape, which has been recognized this year by the profession’s highest honour, along with their many other accolades,” Maher said.

In the May/June 2016 issue of Architecture Australia, which honoured Ashton, Raggatt and McDougall as the recipients of the 2016 Gold Medal, McBride Charles Ryan director Rob McBride said:

I first met Steve Ashton when I worked as a graduate for Ian McDougall, who was sharing an office with the fledgling practice Ashton and Raggatt. Even then it was clear that Steve, with his intelligence, wit and sober insights into the practice of architecture, was the perfect foil for his offsiders.

When I left that office to form McBride Charles Ryan, Steve regularly offered our firm contract work. In an act of humility, generosity and practical mindedness (ARM was by then a very busy practice), he offered us a major opportunity, namely the renovations and additions to his own home, a well-known Don Fulton house. Steve was the perfect client: calm, encouraging, clear in his instructions and gracious throughout. The outcome is one of which we remain most proud and was profoundly important for our practice.

Over the years Steve has been generous with strategic and professional advice to us and others. He is quick to praise other architects for a job well done (something we all fail to do with sufficient frequency) and is rollicking good company. It is some of these qualities that make Steve an indispensable part of Australia’s most remarkable architectural triumvirate.

Ashton and his wife Ro Nixon have established the Ashton-Nixon Bequest to support architecture, medical research and the environment. Ashton believed that the business skills he developed in his Graduate Diploma of Business Administration at Swinburne contributed greatly to ARM’s success. In particular, the bequest will support scholarships for young architects to gain business training at universities of their choice. For more information, visit ashtonnixonbequest.com


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