William Albert Johnson
- Born 1885
- Married 1914 Jean (Jeanie) Meikle at Stockport
- Died 25 June 1952 at 8 Southern Crescent, Bramhall
- Funeral Stockport Crematorium
William Albert Johnson was born in 1885 in Levenshulme, one of three children of William and Mary Jane Johnson. His father was the manager of a local Co-op grocery shop. He studied at the Manchester Schools of Technology and Art under Professors Hugh Stannus and A C Dickie. He was articled to the Chief Architect of the CWS, Francis E L Harris, and after qualifying set up his own practice, sharing offices with Paul Ogden. The struggle of maintaining a practice proved too difficult financially and he decided to go back and work with Harris at the CWS. On Harris’s death in 1924, he succeeded him as Chief Architect. In total W A Johnson worked for the Cooperative Wholesale Society from 1899 until his retirement in 1950.
He was elected a fellow of RIBA in 1931 and was proposed by L G Ekins, J T Halliday and Isaac Taylor. He was President of the Manchester Society of Architects from 1937 to 1939. He retired from the CWS on his 65th birthday and was succeeded by George Stanley Hay, who had been based at the CWS London office since 1918. During his time as Chief Architect at the CWS, his assistants were John William Cropper (1890-1974) and Cyril Lawrence Paice (1894-1975). He also worked closely with the Chief Architect at the CWS in London, Leonard Gray Ekins (1877-1948). Ekins was generally responsible for the CWS premises in the South of England, and Johnson for premises in the North. These premises covered small branch shops, factories, warehouses, banks, offices and department stores.
For department stores in particular, he was heavily influenced by the German architect Erich Mendelsohn after 1930, evident in his embrace of the International Modernist style. Johnson travelled widely in Germany and Holland, and Mendelsohn's Sckoken store in Stuttgart (1928) is quoted as being a particular inspiration for the Bradford Co-op. In an interview for the CWS magazine The Producer in 1930, he declared “Modern architects must use modern materials in a modern way. Architecture must adapt itself to its environment, or die”, and spoke of the Architecture of Adventure as opposed to the Architecture of Tradition.
William Albert Johnson retired in 1950 and died on 25 June 1952 at his home, 8 Southern Crescent, Bramhall. He was married but had no children.
1899-1950 CWS Architects Department Balloon Street Manchester
Death Notice Manchester Guardian 28 June 1952 page 8
Reference Information from Richard Fletcher by email