Death of leading architect at age of 72

Fri, Nov 10, 2006, 00:00

Ireland's best-known architect, Sam Stephenson, has died suddenly following a heart operation at St James's Hospital in Dublin. He was 72 and had been working on a number of major projects in the weeks prior to his death, writes Frank McDonald, Environment Editor.

Chiefly known as the architect of the ESB headquarters in Fitzwilliam Street, the Central Bank in Dame Street and the first phase of the Civic Offices at Wood Quay, he was one of the most colourful figures in the architectural profession.

His long-time partner in practice, Arthur Gibney, died last May.

For many years, their firm - Stephenson Gibney and Associates - dominated the architectural scene in Ireland, rivalled only by Scott Tallon Walker.

"It's very sad news", said painter James Hanley, secretary of the Royal Hibernian Academy. "I had met him at the RHA gallery only last Friday when he looked a bit poorly and he told me he was going in to St James's for an operation.

"It's shocking to think that Arthur, Sam and Charlie Haughey have all now passed away within months of each other", Mr Hanley said.

Arthur Gibney had been president of the RHA, while the former taoiseach was a great friend and patron.

Sam Stephenson's eldest son, Sam junior, is administrator at the RHA's Gallagher Gallery in Ely Place. His wife, Caroline Stephenson, is a daughter of the late Fine Gael senator Alexis FitzGerald. The couple had two young sons.

"Caroline wanted me to do a portrait of Sam, but I just hadn't got around to it", said Mr Hanley, who recently painted Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.