Wyn Thomas OBE MCD BArch DipLA FRIBA MRTPI MLI FIHT FIHort (1928-2017)
Wyn Thomas, one of Wales’ foremost town planners and landscape architects, has died, aged 88, writes Paul Vining. His professional career was officially recognised, in 2000, in his being awarded the OBE for, uniquely, ‘services to planning and landscape architecture in Wales’; and, in 2004 – to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Landscape Institute – Landscape Institute Wales declared him ‘the landscape architect who has made the greatest contribution in Wales’.
Wyn, who was born in Aberystwyth in 1928, graduated as an architect at the Welsh School of Architecture in 1951, as a town planner at the University of Liverpool in 1953 and, much later in life, as a landscape architect at Birmingham Polytechnic in 1977. He was a member of all three professional bodies and of the Institution of Highways & Transportation and the Institute of Horticulture.
After military service and a short spell in local government, Wyn Thomas spent the rest of his professional life in private practice, where he established an enviable reputation for meticulous professionalism and high quality work.
Initially, he joined a local firm of architects, HMR Burgess + Partners in Pontypridd and Cardiff, where he spent 16 years as joint senior partner. He left in 1974 to establish one of the first town planning practices in Wales, Wyn Thomas + Partners. He saw the opportunity for multidisciplinary practice as the foundation of successful development, and the partnership quickly and successfully expanded into the fields of landscape design and architecture. In a long and varied career, Wyn Thomas made a substantial contribution in each of these fields, but it is as a landscape architect that he made his greatest mark. An inspirational and charismatic head of the practice, for many years he led and nurtured a talented group of landscape architects and landscape technicians engaged on a wide variety of significant projects.
Wyn Thomas acted for important clients in both the public and private sectors, including the then Welsh Office, Welsh Development Agency, Land Authority for Wales, National Library of Wales, National Museums and Galleries of Wales, Cardiff University, British Steel, British Coal and many others. From an extensive portfolio of projects, he is remembered, especially, for introducing more environmentally sensitive standards of restoration on opencast coal and reclamation sites in south Wales, in particular at the pioneering Dare Valley Country Park; as a champion of communities in the Heads of the Valleys area, particularly in Aberdare, Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil; and for establishing new standards in the integration of roads into the Welsh landscape, notably in Snowdonia.
He was the lead landscape architect and planner for the A470 Blaenau Ffestiniog to Betws-y-Coed route study in the National Park, of which the A470 Cancoed to Minffordd improvement received the Landscape Institute 75th Anniversary design award. He was a founding member and chairman of the Wales Landscape Group, the predecessor of Landscape Institute Wales.
A rich life
A hectic professional life did not prevent Wyn Thomas from contributing in a number of other fields: a fluent Welsh speaker, he had a parallel, albeit part-time, career for more than 60 years as a broadcaster on both radio and television (in English and Welsh); he served 21 years as a magistrate on the Cardiff Bench; he was the founder secretary, subsequently chairman and then president of Cardiff’s Civic Society; and he served for a time on The Prince of Wales’ Committee, chairing the final judging panel of its awards scheme.