Robert Maxwell, professor of architecture, emeritus, died Jan. 2, 2020
Bob managed to get me past the RIBA External Examiners in 1961 by stating “You better pass him. He will never stop trying”. It was my third attempt. I had taken the brief of Churchill College and done in a mix of Corb and Kenzo Tange with some crimson bits. I asked Bob, in 1996, to critique my first (and only) large building in Britain: the Paul Judge Faculty of Business Studies in the Old Addembrookes Hospital for Cambridge University. He kindly did so writing “Outram has broken the taboos of Modernism”. I liked him for that. He did not approve, but was gracious (and even reluctantly excited), in his disappointment. He liked the idea that he had launched the official academic status of some “weirdos”. Quinlan Terry was one of the others. He put this in his autobiography “The Time of My Life”. My own best building is, as I suppose it should be, In Texas, at Rice University. It is Duncan Hall – the Faculty of Computational Engineering. The type who wrote for the New York Times in 1997. when it was opened by Charles and Anne Duncan, after whom it was named, refused to review it. He was into Zaha and Liebeskind at the time and hat not the wits to make something of Duncan Hall’s ideas. After it, and especially because of its ‘surface-scripting’ (the part Bob said “broke the taboos”), and beginning in 1998, I felt able to write my 1000-page Theory of Everything called “44 Lectures”. I printed in privately as I had the money and my Profession really bored me terribly. I gave Bob a copy. It is in three volumes with 3000 illustrations. It pretends to be an Academic Year but is really a Military Campaign. whose ambition if to entirely destroy the ghastly rubbish built since WWII and replace it with a lifespace, along with its culture that will liberate the girls of Asia, where most of them currently, and will always, live. It is also where, as old Imperialists, my family on both sides have lived for three generations. Bob’s verdict was that he “liked his Architecture paler”. The three volumes are somewhere in the office of Thomas Weaver of MIT Publishing. I am nearly at the end of the Fourth Volume. This is not a philosophy of the Human Lifespace. It is a fiction, currently as long as all three of the Theory put together, which narrates an invented world in which the ‘Theories’ all turn out to have utility in the fields in which fiction invents its most persuasive ontologies, those of sex and violence. The amusing thing about it is that for confirmation of its more improbable scenes one will only have turn-up the index of the 44 Lectures to discover that they were already ‘real’. An instance of Fiction following Fact. I was very sad to hear of Bob’s demise. He seems to have left us while Christmas partying, no doubt at has lovely jazz piano. I am 85 and almost fully robotised, which I really do like as a style of Being. Nothing works properly towards the end except the Mind, which, fortunately is a metaphysical rather than a physical entity. Bob! i would have liked your opinion on my transition from fact to fiction. Volume Four is to be bound in shiny gold as well. I recall that the only word that you very kindly changed in your clever review of the Judge Institute was from “popular” to “vulgar”. It’s death in Modernism to be “popular”. Farewell Bob. You had a good innings and will be remembered by me for being, as they say in Aix La Provence: “un bon type”.
Dean Maxwell was all that his students, Mitchell, Yarinsky and Cassells, remember and I would concur that we enyoyed his wry humor and sly intelligence, but we benefitted the most from his genuine interest in our work.
Maxwell was at the AA in London at the time I first went to London under an AIA traveling fellowship in 1976. He was a good friend of my grad school professor Colin Rowe at Cornell and he arranged accomodations for me with several of his students who were squatters in condemned/abandoned houses in London. He was also generous in giving me a tour of the AA and provided me with a spontaneous list of not to be missed mostly late modern, brutalist and/or recently built buildings I then toured in London and throughout Great Britain.
After acceptance, Dean Maxwell ensured that I received a scholarship, so I could attend the Ph.D. program. Later, while his teaching assistant for the “Architecture as Cultural Expression,” he wanted to sit in his office and talk about Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, and the search for the underlying patterns of thought in all forms of human activity. He was the very definition of a polymath. As a student, I didn’t get it! How could you be great at anything, if you wanted to understand everything. While talking before a faculty meeting, he confided to me, “I don’t like being the Dean — I don’t like rules.” Then, while pointing at the empty chairs, he concluded, “I would rather be the young rebel in the room, or like you, building bombs in the basement.” He filled those empty chairs with the most brilliant young minds in architecture, and they in turn transformed scholarship as we know it. Cheers, Bob
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