Academic saviour awarded an OBE

A GODMANCHESTER academic who saved his Cambridge University s Department of Architecture from closure has today become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in The Queen s New Year Honours. When Chile-born Professor Marcial Echenique, 65, took ove

A GODMANCHESTER academic who saved his Cambridge University's Department of Architecture from closure has today become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in The Queen's New Year Honours.

When Chile-born Professor Marcial Echenique, 65, took over the Department of Land Use and Transport Studies five years ago, the university wanted to close it because it was not attracting sufficient research money.

But just before Christmas, he learned that it had become the UK's leading academic architecture department. Now he has the OBE for services to urban and regional planning.

"I'm thrilled. It's a great honour, especially for someone who has been adopted by this country," he told The Hunts Post. "Probably the reason I got the OBE is that five years ago the department of architecture was threatened with closure. Although it was one of the best in the world for teaching, it was not for research - and that's where the money comes from.

"I was asked to take over the department and, to my great satisfaction, a week ago, in the new research assessment across every single academic in the country, Cambridge architects became number one. That's extraordinary in just five years.

"We have demonstrated that we are the best, which is tremendously rewarding," added the naturalised Briton, who has lived at historic Farm Hall in Godmanchester for almost 30 years.

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Prof Echenique, who was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1943, first studied architecture in his own city, where he still advises on urban design and planning. Following a PhD from the University of Barcelona, he came to Cambridge in 1966 to work with Professor Sir Leslie Martin. He progressed up the academic ladder to be awarded his chair in 1990 and later to take over the department. He is also a Fellow of Churchill College.

In addition, his ideas are behind major developments of Cambridge city. These include Clay Farm and the re-development of the huge Marshalls airport site for housing and other uses.

He is project director of Cambridge Futures, the not-for-profit group of business leaders, politicians, government officers, professionals and academics collaborating on possible plans for the future of the Cambridge sub-region.

When not planning major cities, Prof Echenique relaxes with his hobbies of gardening, music and reading.

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