MILTON Keynes is one of the, if not the, most successful new towns ever constructed.
“Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan”, the saying goes. And, as such an outstanding success, Milton Keynes therefore has many fathers – and mothers, of course – and rightly so. These were visionary men and women who deserve to be acknowledged and applauded as they slip into retirement and older age.
But, sadly, they are not immortal and on January 8th another great ‘father of MK’ Ken Baker, following a fall at his flat in Lewes, East Sussex, where he had moved in 2018 to be closer to his family – two sons and his ex-wife. He was 79.
He was born, on the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sadly, Ken had been in a slow decline for some years with significant issues. Even in his later years, he developed complex new plans to improve the city, including proposals for a garden city project for Milton Keynes that included an extension of his station square ideas, pedestrianising Midsummer Boulevard with gardens, leisure facilities and civic art, with links through to Campbell Park.
Ken’s primary task when as a young architect at Milton Keynes Development Corporation was the detailed design of the infrastructure; the assemblage of paving, street furniture and granite that form the three great Boulevards, the three Gates, and the precisely crafted Streets of CMK. “It was this great 2.5km long and 1km wide public “building” which has helped MK stay on the map the world over for its innovation of providing a framework within which the development whims of the day can come and go without wrecking the distinctive sense of place and quality of the public realm,” said David Lock of DLA.
Later, as part of Conran Roche – the architecture and planning consultancy set up by former MKDC general manager Fred Lloyd Roche and designer Terence Conran (who also died last year) – Ken was the architect of the “exquisite” stone-clad Magistrates Court building.
Along with Fred Roche a friend and business partner who is buried in our own church yard here in Bow Brickhill “It can truly be said our city has lost another of its creators and an energetic guardian and promoter of its ethos: to anticipate and welcome growth and change but within a considered physical framework reserved for the public to enjoy and adapt, not carelessly to be destroyed in ignorance. His mission remained to keep MK modern, distinctive and elegant.”
As chair of ASTRA and manager of the rebuilding of Bow Brickhill’s Community Hall, I like to believe I have been able to contribute in some small way by pursuing the visions and philosophies of these great architects and give the public the richness of design they deserve.
Thank you to Theo Chalmers for his permission to use much of his article published in Business MK February Obituary News.