Max Fordham, the acclaimed engineer, pioneer of sustainable building design, and much-loved and admired founder of our practice, passed away in early 2022.
Alongside his wife Taddy, Max founded our practice on the idea of engineers bringing scientific knowledge into the art of building design. He pursued a new approach to engineering based on his insatiable curiosity about how buildings work.
Max resisted being pigeonholed into the conventional boxes of mechanical or electrical engineering, and was always interested in the whole building. He took a creative, but essentially practical, approach to building services design. Designing from first principles, he was often quoted as saying “start with the edge of the universe as a boundary and quickly narrow down to the specific problem”.
Max and the practice won significant and varied recognition for their work in ensuring human comfort by giving buildings heat, power, water and ventilation in a sustainable and elegant way. Notable projects under Max’s leadership include Alexandra Road Estate (with Neave Brown), Contact Theatre (with Alan Short), the Environmental Building for BRE (with Peter Clegg / FCB Studios), the Judge Institute (with John Outram), RMC HQ (with Ted Cullinan), Royal Exchange Theatre (with David Levitt), and Tate St Ives (with Evans & Shalev).
Max handed over the running of the practice to his fellow partners in 2000. The business has gone on to work on many more notable buildings including Tate Modern Switch House, the RIBA Stirling Prize-winning MAXXI in Rome, the Passivhaus redevelopment of Agar Grove Estate, and Max’s own RIBA Sustainable Prize-winning Camden home.
On this page, we have gathered more about Max, his most notable projects and innovations, and the many memories and reflections that those who worked with him have shared.
Max’s creativity and passion will be sorely missed. The legacy of his vision will continue to inspire.