Hats off and farewell to Gary Milliner

22nd December 2020
‘Helmet Hair’ – Photo courtesy of Chris Fox, Furniture21

Architect, placemaker, bullet-fast on two wheels and overall brilliant person. We’re going to miss Gary, that’s for sure.

We’ve been together for 23 years – a considerable stint in anyone’s book. From Gary’s point of view:

I arrived in Bristol with my youngest son crawling around. Now he’s six foot three and finishing university whilst my eldest son is working with Hydrock as a Mechanical Engineer.

It’s all got us thinking about Gary’s legacy. Both his influence on us, as an employee-owned business, and on the built environment. It’s been quite a ride.

When I joined Stride Treglown there was a real drive to improve the design quality and become a design office – ultimately to create better buildings. It was a real priority for me and for people – like David Hunter and Dominic Eaton – who are leading the business now. Looking to the here and now, you can see how far we’ve come on that path.

At the turn of the millennium, Gary was already shaping complex projects and picking up awards…

The first building I was able to put my stamp on, as it were, was Plymouth Royal Mail Centre in 1999. It went on to win the Abercrombie Award, which was amazing for myself and the team.

Gary quickly began leading mixed-use schemes including housing, masterplanning, workplace and R+D projects, working on all of these types nationally. Many of his highlights, however, happen to be in Bristol.

Great Western Dockyard

Great Western Dockyard remains one of his favourites. A mixed use resi scheme within the harbour regeneration, it takes design cues from Brunel’s neighbouring steamship engine works. It’s not every day you get to design a building with one of the most historic ships in the world parked out front.

The waterfront theme continued with One Glass Wharf, home to legal firm Burgess Salmon. The 19,000 sqm building was tailored to their exact requirements and formed the centrepiece of a major urban regeneration scheme at Temple Quay.

Despite different briefs and settings, Gary’s work always exists in harmony with complexity. In fact, Gary would say the more complicated, the better. Whether it’s mixed use aligned with heritage, or creating an entire urban creative quarter from scratch.


That’s exactly what Gary did at Paintworks with Crest Nicholson. The award-winning pedestrian-first scheme, built entirely on a podium, put place and people before conventions, meaning the site’s ‘traffic’ was all on-foot, and roads became the grounds to gather and chat. It’s a place that’s fascinated us, and its inhabitants, from the off, and it’s somewhere we’ll always come back to and learn from.

Paintworks has probably been one of my favourites just from the sheer complexity of it as an idea. It’s a true mixed use scheme – from residential to work space with secret car parking and a dash of quirkiness. Even some of our employees and business associates live there.

National Composites Centre

Gary has shaped projects beyond resi and mixed-use. The National Composites Centre (NCC) for the University of Bristol quickly became a world-class international hub for the design and rapid manufacture of composites. What its 200 strong team of experts and researchers do within its walls is extraordinary, and they rely upon an extraordinary building to help them. Gary embraced the complexity of it all, as Erik Dirdel at BDP, who worked with Gary on the NCC, comments:

Whenever Gary rang me with a challenge, I knew that if I could just keep quiet for long enough he would always answer his own question. His understanding of structural engineering is excellent and even his more ‘creative’ proposals would be accompanied by a thought-out solution.

These projects will continue to flourish long into the future, and we’ll be taking lessons from those. There’s also the impact Gary’s had closer to home.

Joining our board of directors 11 years ago, Gary has steered Stride Treglown through some of our biggest transformations, such as our shift to employee ownership. It all could’ve been cut horribly short, however, after a wrong turn on a cycling holiday. Colleague, Peter Fenton, who was alongside Gary in the peloton, told us:

We were descending a mountain when the sound of gunfire ricocheted across the peaks. Gary said it’s probably just paintballers, so we carried on. On reaching the bottom of the mountain, it turned out that we had in fact just cycled through the middle of a live firing range. The Swiss Guards in training told us that had we been five minutes earlier, we would probably have been shot!

His optimism knows no bounds, so we’ve all chipped in for a Kevlar helmet as a retirement gift. The folk at the NCC are making it right now.

Those that work with him – in and out of Stride Treglown – say he has a calming, gentle way of leading teams. He’s pragmatic but with a real passion and flair for what he does – that passion hits its peak when he’s sketching a complex detail at his drawing board. Long-time colleague James Horner notes:

If there is one thing that I have learnt over my years working with Gary, never throw one of his sketches away. I have known many situations where having Revit’d a sketch, Gary may accost you for perhaps up to a decade afterwards asking if you still have a sketch for a project that you worked on for 20 minutes in 2004.

If only James used the patented Milliner Filing System, he’d know said sketch was 362 sheets down in the 3rd pile from the left, middle row, next to the orange (not the red or silver) cafetiere on his desk…

Simplicity out of complexity.

We all wish Gary a fun and action-packed retirement. Thanks for the ride.