Farewell to Hugh Brady, Architect, Founder of ONA
Mon - September 9, 2019
Hugh Brady was born in Dublin on 13 March 1930 and trained as an architect. In 1973, he was asked by the Royal Institute of British Architects to set up the ONA to monitor the rapid redevelopment of the area. The ONA’s present-day values are the same as they were then, and Hugh was very active in keeping track of planning applications and all building work in the area. He was always passionate about good design in local development. The idea of the annual garden party in Onslow Square was born early on, despite initial resistance from the estate, because the party was a public rather than private event. However, the party proved an excellent way for the locals to meet, especially for newcomers to the area. Committee members worked hard to provide food and a congenial atmosphere, with music provided by students from the Royal College of Music. Committee members got to know their neighbours by distributing leaflets and notices.
Hugh Brady on his 80th birthday, at Le Columbier
Brady was a longtime resident of our area. In 1957, he moved to a derelict house in Selwood Terrace with his wife and baby daughter. Always a visionary, he foresaw its potential despite its dilapidated condition. The WC and bath were in the garden shed, there was no kitchen, and the coal shed was in the front garden. Brady got to and dug down in the basement so the two-room downstairs could comply with building regulations. Brady was refused a mortgage by the bank on the grounds that the area “would never come up”. All the railings in the area, including those in Onslow Gardens and Square, had been dismantled for the war effort. Refugees were camping in the squares. The pub next door had straw on the floor and was frequented by cabbies, Saturday night fights being commonplace. Nevertheless, Brady managed to win a council grant to put in a bathroom and kitchen. In 1963, Hugh built on another floor and bathroom. He remained in the house for the rest of his life.
Brady, whose first professional post was with Ralph Tubbs, was a member of the team that designed the Baden-Powell house in Queen’s Gate in 1956. The design was influenced by Le Corbusier, whom Brady admired tremendously. Brady also designed the vicarage at HTB Onslow Square, St Paul’s church at the time, which Brady and his family attended regularly. The building fits into a very small site and the vicar (Rev. Prior) much admired the clever use of space and storage.
The 1960s saw the huge gentrification of the area, focussed round the smart set frequenting the King’s Road, Chelsea and South Kensington. The museums were popularised, the hospitals smartened up (St Stephen’s, which had been a workhouse, was pulled down) and the derelict housing gradually restored.
Brady continued to work as an architect and then as an expert witness on party walls until his retirement in 2002.