Patrick Gallagher was one of the first people I met in the profession. He worked in over 15 architectural offices, and at each of those was always at the core of any real banter.
My friendship with him started at Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs in 1985, working in his team in the first project of my career as a student of architecture: the Parramatta Commonwealth Offices.
There he was standing in the corner of the large Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs office behind his drawing board; an A0 board with a machine that he insisted he bring to the office. It moved around with him, holding his space and giving him presence in the otherwise bland sea of fluorescent lights in the offices of those days. He worked on drawings produced on the horizontal, in ink and with blue lead, only on film, and standing. This was the method of the great draftsmen who could immediately draw the work with no preliminary sketch. Patrick, of course, was an architect, and as a student I could only imagine that someday I would need to know as much as Patrick – it seemed impossible.
There were so many questions about him; he seemed to be an elusive character. The most important question for me was how he maintained such enthusiasm, and such optimism. I cannot erase from my mind his reaction when I told him my age; his jumping up from his board and suggesting that I had “a long way to go son – you were born yesterday”.
His reputation was much lauded. Col Madigan would acknowledge that his drawings were very fine, and Jack Torzillo told me to look at how clean his desk was (compared to the quagmire on his own). They pointed Patrick out as someone I should look towards; a good example to follow in my drawings. And, on the advice of those great people around me, I did, but unbeknown to Patrick ‒ in those days this was secret advice; no-one would ever be ‘weakened’ by giving someone a direct compliment. How things have changed.
He stood when he drew and this, perhaps, represented the exemplary way he knew to conduct himself. In a recent talk at Tusculum, Sean Godsell raised his deep respect for those ‘old’ architects sitting in the back of offices; those who knew how to draw a 1:20 section and get a specification out. Patrick would have considered himself too ‘creative’, too ‘liberal’ a thinker, perhaps, to be imagined in this light. Indeed, he would have eschewed the term ‘old’ being as he was eternally ‘young’. From my understanding of the profession, however, Patrick represented that person who was able to do everything; that person we should all aspire to be. Whereas specialisation, today, provides some commercial benefit to many, I can hear Patrick still championing the virtues of being a ‘generalist’, needing to know all things ‘a little’.
I can cite the impressive drawings, and then the design itself, of the awning at No.1 Margaret Street Sydney: the Citibank awning. Drawings made in 0.18 tungsten pen – a ‘Rotring’. There were details at 1:2 and then there were details at 2:1. How delightful was its play of detail and structure, and how sad to have seen the structures removed so unceremoniously. So much is able to be gained by those things we seem to discard with little thought. But Patrick, I have always kept my sketches as you suggested.
More recently, Patrick attended almost every one of the series of weekly talks at Tusculum; this again shows the fervour of his enthusiasm. In fact at the very talk to which I made reference earlier, I noted that I missed Patrick and missed our chats that graced the end of each of these evenings. Nothing seemed to change. After 30 years of knowing him, Patrick maintained his keenness of eye; that eye that glistened at the sight of a beautiful plan and pierced you with its readiness for debate, discussion, discourse and anything that demonstrated a love for architecture. A love and enthusiasm that I share with few people and Patrick infested me with it right from the start.