Guyanese architect Alfred France, whose work ranked among the most respected in the country, died three weeks ago in Canada following a period of illness. He was 87 years old.
France was a pioneer in the profession and had initially started his career at the Public Works Department in the 1940s as a draftsman.
His work includes collaborative efforts on a string of government ministries during the mid-1940s to around 1960 when he went into private practice.
France laboured on a few faculty buildings at the University of Guyana where he also worked for a brief period. His reputation had preceded him after he earned the distinction of being the first Guyanese to qualify as an architect in 1956 followed by Hugh Reid.
Since his passing on March 14, many have reflected on his life and work.
There are some who said they knew him, but feel they are “not qualified to reflect openly on his life”. However, others who have worked with him including architect Albert Rodrigues and engineer Phillip Allsopp said his career was a distinguished one.
“He was an excellent draftsman and was particularly helpful to young draftsmen”, Allsopp told Stabroek News last week.
He recalled that France mentored many young draftsmen who were employed at the Public Works Department during his years there. France, he said, started out as a draftsman at the Department before assuming the position of Chief Architect.
Rodrigues knew France very well and he commented that one of his good friends has died. He said the friendship started back in 1969 when France was working privately and according to him, France was highly respected and sought after. He said many well-known business establishments recruited France to design for them.
Rodrigues recalled that France used his vacation time to qualify as an architect and in 1956 he wrote the final examination offered by the Royal Institute of British Architects to earn his qualification.
He also became the first Guyanese to be elected as a member of the Institute. “He was a professional and was very thorough in his work”, Rodrigues noted.
Rodrigues said too that France was a founding member of the Guyana Society of Architects now the Guyana Institute of Architects. France is responsible for a number of well-known buildings in the city including a few private residences, according to Rodrigues.
In addition, he said France worked on the countrywide project to design and build several of the multilateral schools.
France, who left Guyana for Canada several years ago, is survived by his widow, Daphne and five children.