Lives Remembered

Avant garde architect who made his mark on Belfast

LOUIS ADAIR ROCHE

LOUIS Adair Roche was an avant garde architect who worked in Dublin and London but made his greatest mark in Belfast.

His landmark yellow tower at Belfast City Hospital, standing 250 feet high, dominates the city's skyline and has long divided opinion among its inhabitants.

Opened in 1986, its lengthy journey from the drawing board at Munce and Kennedy, where Roche was design partner, led to it being described as "the baby born with grey hair" in a TV report.

It remains the fourth highest building in Ireland today.

Adair's somewhat unusual name was to give him trouble. Mr LA Roche on paper often became garbled into La Roche in speech.

Being addressed in a "Frenchified" way was guaranteed to set him off, snarling: "Roche, goddammit, Roche, not Rush, dammit to hell." That flashpoint overcome, he was popular among young architects who admired his unconventional approach. Adair Roche was born in Monkstown, Co Cork and boarded for two years at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, but it did not agree with him and he returned to complete his schooling at home.

His father later sold his dairy business in Cork, having encountered difficulties as a Protestant business owner in the troubled 1940s, and moved to Rostrevor, Co Down, taking over

Armaghdown Dairies. Adair studied architecture at University College London and practised briefly in Kilkenny and Dublin, but in 1957 he joined the leading Belfast architectural firm Munce and Kennedy.

He became a partner five years later, selling the family home - a radical design of his own in Windsor Avenue North - to pay for his share of the practice.

Adair was also involved in the design of the city's Lyric Theatre.

In 1972 he moved his family to London, establishing his own firm ISER but commuting regularly to an office in Belfast.

He eventually retired in the mid-2000s and moved to Brighton, where his ex-wife was living.

He had first married Yorkshire woman Patricia Mitchell in 1948 when they were both students. They had six children before divorcing in 1988, but remarried in 2008. Louis Adair Roche, who died aged 86 in Brighton on July 28, is survived by his wife Pat and children Lise, Nick, Jeremy, Cathy, Adam and Emma.

Lives Remembered