Gordon McKnight (1918-2018)

Gordon Kempson McKnight was born in Rathfriland in 1919.  He was a distinguished architect as well as an artist, and shortly before he retired in 1991, he decorated the building his practice occupied with a trompe l’oeil mural of a sharpened pencil breaking through the brickwork. It was a great advertisement and showed something of Gordon’s sense of humour.

His watercolour paintings were accurate and careful, but distinguished above all by his ability to lay down the beautifully smooth graduated washes learned during his architectural training. Having been a member of Tom Kerr’s art group and the Ulster Watercolour Society, he also worked in Seacourt Print Workshop for a while. He won the prize for “most popular painting” at the RUA’s 1994 exhibition and became an Associate of the RUA in 1999.

Gordon was interested in recording his work and life through the medium of film, and several of his Super 8 films are now available on-line, ranging from descriptions of the development of his buildings to holidays and informal family occasions.

As an architect Gordon specialised in church work and had the unusual distinction of having not just one of his buildings listed – more than half a dozen of his widely diverse designs have been listed as being of special architectural interest. Among his best-known designs are Orangefield Presbyterian Church, the Chapel at Methodist College and Martyrs’ Memorial Free Presbyterian Church, all in Belfast; but he also designed churches in Portadown, Bangor and at Corrymeela .

Gordon McKnight’s long life was one of very individual achievement lived with curiosity, humour and inventiveness.


Marcus Patton RUA