With the recent, tragic death of John Csáky at the age of 61, we have lost one of the world’s leading figures in museum and exhibition design. John was that rare person among successful designers: someone who was not just persuasive with clients, but also deeply cerebral and highly practical.
A silver medallist at the Royal College of Art, he showed great internationalism and versatility – from lighting the Isle of Wight Music Festival in 1970 through to designing a theme park on religious belief in Saudi Arabia during his final months struggling against lung cancer.
John brought to his projects architectural and interior metaphors that enthralled the visitor. This comes out very strongly in his award-winning and hugely popular show The Deep – Europe’s largest aquarium – in Kingston-upon-Hull.
John’s professional life began at the Milton Keynes Development Corporation. There, he didn’t just design the Milton Keynes Bowl, which saw performances by Sting, U2, Queen and David Bowie, he also went on to co-manage it.
In 1980, John set up his own practice, Special Projects Partnership, going on to co-design a technical institute in Taiwan and timber-framed houses for Oravais Hus. By 1985, he had become a director at Fitch & Co, where he completed the Chinese Gallery at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
After working on the Seville Expo in 1992, John returned to London to establish his own practice, John Csáky Associates. There, and in subsequent incarnations (the consultancy was sold to the Mice Group, and John and his colleagues moved to Portland Design), John became, arguably, the pre-eminent force in UK visitor attractions, and a major player on the international stage.
We will remember John not only for his huge contribution to design, but also for his very courageous fight against cancer.