Home » Chris Honey

Chris Honey

Chris Honey was born on 21 October 1959 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Educated at Eltham College, he came up to Jesus in 1979 to read Architecture, graduating BA in 1982; MA 1985.   He was a keen member of Jesus College Boat Club and the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps (having completed a Short Service Limited Commission in the Queen's Royal Gurkha Engineers in Hong Kong prior to coming up to Jesus).  His sister, Alison, followed him to Jesus in 1985. In 1983 he spent a year working in Malaysia with the leading Kuala Lumpur firm, BEP Akitek Sendirian before attending the Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning, University College, London, passing his Diploma in 1985. 

Travel was in Chris's blood.  He spent the first few years of his life in Malaya where his father, an architect from New Zealand and his mother, a teacher from England, had met and spent their early married life. As a result of his parentage Chris, along with his older brother Nigel and younger sister Alison, held dual British and New Zealand citizenship. After some years in England in 1970 the family moved to the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in the Western Pacific for eighteen months and spent the outward and return journey visiting friends and relatives in the Americas, Asia and the Antipodes. Back in the UK the family home was often filled with friends and family from overseas and this experience imbued Chris with a sense of generosity and hospitality which he in turn practised throughout his own life and retained to the end.

After qualifying Chris spent several years in London working in architectural firms including Hamilton Associates with Paul Tanner ('66) and GMW but in the late 90s (now married to Rebecca) he moved back to his roots in Asia where he headed an in-house design office for Michael Tan, a leading Malaysian property developer with whom he developed a strong friendship.  During this time he planned schemes, now executed, in peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Australia as well as viewing sites in China.  After some years in Kuala Lumpur he and Rebecca returned to the UK to live in Hertfordshire and their sons Sam and Nat were born in 1999 and 2002.  Chris continued to keep up his professional links with Asia but also began to develop a busy local architectural practice. Chris had an extraordinary gift for friendship.

He was not only good at making friends but keeping them and anyone who met Chris found it difficult to forget him.  He retained strong links with many contemporaries from his years at Jesus and used to take his young son, Sam to visit Muriel Brittain in college to view her collection of roosters. However he also possessed an innate linguistic talent and this, coupled with a complete lack of inhibition in speaking foreign languages and a true interest in the world resulted in him making friends from all cultures and countries.  In his last year at school he formed a life-long friendship with a Finnish family through a British Council exchange and he was elected President of International Hall during his time as a student at UCL.  Chris had a seemingless unbounded interest in everyone and everything.  He was a member of the RIBA, elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1986, loved travel, opera and Scandinavian design, Arsenal, all things Asian, his family, his friends and his pugs. 

Tragically in 2003, after developing septicaemia from a cat scratch, Chris was unlucky enough to develop dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition which can only be treated medically until in some cases, such as his, deterioration means that heart transplant is the only option.  He was an extraordinary patient:  He read avidly about his condition, confronted it head on and was relentlessly optimistic despite frequent setbacks.

Chris died on 23 May 2012, aged 52.

Additional obituary by Tony Earle

Chris Honey (1971 - 1978),one of that boarder breed of self-reliance, internationalism   and firm purpose, died on 23rd May 2012, after complications awaiting a heart transplant at Papworth Hospital. A family base in Orpington made the College a natural choice, where he followed his brother. Of all confident characters in the Boarding House, he had strength of personality and will, and ability, often discreet, to lead pupils and coax teachers. As a future architect, he coped easily with the curriculum,  enjoying  especially Art and Languages .An able linguist, he personally arranged  an exchange with a Finnish family, which led to  lifelong friendship. Tutoring him for History of Architecture in Art A level was a shared experience for teacher and pupil. Similar sharing led to Jesus College Cambridge to read Architecture. As one of the early Chairmen of College Society (now College Meetings), he made it a major evening feature, and his personality, and influence among his peers, defined its leadership for his successors.

Always ready to pioneer new ideas, he saw nonsense for what it was, and was refreshingly contestataire towards unfairness or pomposity. He took the opportunity for a well-spent Gap Year, a Short Service Commission with the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers which led to Hong-Kong and frontier duties. After graduation he worked in leading architectural practices, but his niche was in South-East Asia where he undertook several impressive projects.  After a  transatlantic courtship, he married into a well known political family, at a  service with  Roman Catholic, United Reformed and Anglican participation. Chris’sympathy for the underdog and underprivileged  found expression in collaboration with his wife, Rebecca Williams, in the Lifelines movement, which challenges capital punishment in the USA.

Among invitations to speak at College, he gave an account of his military Gap Year, and  notably addressed the College Society in December 2001, then about to undergo change. His subject, naturally Lifelines,  engaged and inspired his large audience.

A loss of  this magnitude, at the age of 52, widely felt, takes years to integrate, and my deep sympathy goes to his wife, two sons, his parents, brother and sister.