Born deaf but parents had the determination and means to give his sister Ann SUTTON (also deaf) and him the best possible education which meant the family moving from South Africa to England just before the outbreak of the Second World War because that was where the best schools for the deaf were.
Schooling was done at Spring Hill School, Northampton.
The family gathered in the war years of WWII on school holidays where-ever his father, an RAF pilot, was stationed with his squadron - Kent, Surrey, Newcastle, Scotland, Devonshire. Here the castles, grand country houses, delightful villages, gothic cathedrals he visited stirred an interest in architecture.
Back in South Africa after the war, after a struggle at matriculating (because of the required Afrikaans) he was finally accepted at the University of the Witwatersrand. His father had died after their return, his business having gone broke in his absence. Thankfully, his uncle Sir George Albu [then owner of Northwards] paid the university bills.
Even before university he had been working for Steffen AHRENDS. His insistence on honest materials, basic simplicity, and good proportions based on human scale, remained an enduring influence on Sutton's work.
He considers the Wits University (1951 to 1956) 'a great experience'. The help and kindness of fellow students lecturers and Professor FASSLER made it possible for him to graduate easily.
In 1956 he shared a flat with Tom Russell, then a film and music critic on The Star. Since then and off-and-on for neigh on 60 years, he has remained his best friend, companion - and architectural critic. They built or renovated at least seven houses together.
In 1961 Russell persuaded him to start a practice on his own account. - up until then he had had only occasional small commissions from friends. His first partner was John GRIFFITHS whom he had met in Ahrends' office (cf MICHAEL SUTTON & GRIFFITHS). Then followed David WALKER who assisted greatly in running the office, organizing and supervising building work thus leaving him time for design work and time to travel overseas often, including six months in India and Nepal in 1971 and many months at a time in Greece.
In the sixties after a failed two-year marriage, he belatedly 'enjoyed sowing a few wild oats'.
He emigrated to Greece because his companion Russell, as a journalist, was done with the apartheid politics in South Africa and had emigrated.
There he spent ever more time on their yacht, 'Sofia, exploring the islands of Greece, fascinated and inspired by their beautiful architecture. Then came one commission after another to design houses for a Greek clientele. The office in South Africa closed when Walker with his family emigrated to Australia.
In 2000 Russell and he returned to the new South Africa. They built a house in Stanford but missed Greece, so, five years later, they returned there.
His architectural philosophy is best stated by Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa: "I have always enjoyed seeing buildings but seldom enjoyed explanations about them – as I feel, with others, that architecture cannot be totally explained but must be experienced."
(Extracted and edited after Michael Sutton, Poros, January 2015)
Books by SUTTON
|Sutton, Michael Kidd. 2015. Michael Sutton : architect. Athens, Greece: Foinikas Publications|
Books citing SUTTON