Ray Pye who formed the partnership with Lawford Gower and added the ‘Ray’ to the practice name, studied at the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff between 1964 and 1969 and became a member of the RIBA in 1971. He joined Lawford Gower in Cardiff and they formed The Lawray Partnership in 1974. Their initial focus of attention was on the industrial work being promoted by the Welsh Development Agency to offset the decline in the Welsh mining industry, and social housing through the newly formed Housing Corporation and the emerging independent Welsh Office, but this soon grew to encompass the private residential and commercial sectors.
Ray was an excellent singer. He was frequently heard giving impromptu performances in restaurants he frequented, but he mainly sang in choirs as a tenor, notably the BBC, the Chords, and his local choir, the Cantorian Creigiau Singers. And while he was an outstanding soloist, he always professed to prefer being just one of the voices in the choir.
He was also exceptionally charismatic and always lit up a room with his presence, often securing clients just with his personality, but he also brought this same modesty to his work. He never sought to portray himself as an expert in any part of architecture, preferring to draw people to him who could contribute more to the cause than he could alone, and to train them in the values he championed. On many occasions, he would often introduce a team member saying that the person knew far more than he did. Not always true of course, but this display of modesty emboldened his team and struck a chord with clients who were themselves trying to understand concepts outside their own fields of expertise. This tremendous skill brought many people with excellent knowledge to his side. It helped him to grow the practice, first in Wrexham, an important start for him, coming as he did from North Wales, and then a short campaign in Dorchester, where he left Lawray’s name in the hands of another architect, to pursue a greater goal in London. Here clients such as the Crown Estate led to projects for Residences for the Japanese Ambassador and the Nigerian High Commissioner as well as leading art dealers and property agents. In each studio, he sowed the seeds of growth and continuity with people he already knew or had hand-picked.
At home too, in Cardiff, he attracted talent that could support and contrast with his skills, so that when the time came for his retirement, he left in place people who could continue to grow the company he had so ably started.
Ray stood down as a director of Lawray in 1997 and since then the leaders have changed and new people have come up through the Company, all inspired by his original vision. Alan Miller and Nick Marsh have taken on the London studio after many years working with Martin Fox, now chairman, who had worked closely with Ray for several decades before that; Chris Evans and Mark Robinson have taken on the Cardiff studio after many years working with Arnot Hughes, himself a close friend and colleague of Ray and new people within the company are rising to take control of the Wrexham studio.
Each person has taken Ray’s vision and adapted it, creating values that keep it alive.
Of course, Ray did not stop when he retired. Instead of enjoying a more peaceful life, he threw himself into the latest challenge he saw for architects – that of health and safety during construction and into the future when the buildings are in use. He qualified as a Planning Supervisor and then as a Principal Designer to take charge of ensuring owners and designers understood the risks associated with their designs and even in this field, he encouraged others to join him and challenge his views, such that Lawray now has its own Principal Designer service that has grown out of his new vision.
He is survived by his wife, Elaine, Elin, their daughter, and son, Gethin.