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William J R Curtis, Architecture Critic, France

William J. R. Curtis (1948) is a historian, critic, painter and photographer. He studied at the Courtauld Institute, London and at Harvard University and has taught at many universities around the world including Harvard University and the Architectural Association. In 2003-4 he was Slade Professor of Fine Art in the University of Cambridge. Among his best known books are: Le Corbusier at Work, The Genesis of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (Harvard, 1978); the classics Modern Architecture Since 1900 (Phaidon, 3rd edition, 1996) and Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms (Phaidon, 1986) (both translated into numerous languages); also Balkrishna Doshi: an Architecture for India (Mapin, Rizzoli, 1988) and Denys Lasdun: Architecture, City, Landscape (Phaidon, 1994). More recent works include: Abstractions in Space (Pulitzer Foundation 2001), The Structure of Shadows, Bell-Lloc (Fundacion Bunka, 2009) and Téodoro Gonzalez de Leon: Complete Works (Arquine 2010). Among his introductions to recent monographs: Alvar Aalto, Maison Louis Carré ( AA Academy,Helsinki, 2008), Edvard Ravnikar, Architect and Teacher (Springer, Vienna 2009), Anant Raje Architect, Selected Works, 1971-2009 (Talika, New Delhi, 2012), Fernando Tavora, Modernidade Permanente (Porto, 2012) and Vazquez Consuegra Palacio de San Telmo (Laberinto de Paixons, 2013).

Curtis has long been interested in Indian architecture, ancient and modern. He contributed to the exhibition and book Architecture in India (Festival of India, France, 1985, organizer Raj Rewal) with an essay on Le Corbusier, ‘The Ancient in the Modern’, and was a consultant to the exhibition Vistara organized by Charles Correa in 1986. Among other relevant texts: ‘Architecture Moderne et Racines Indiennes: Raj Rewal’, Raj Rewal, architecture climatique, Moniteur, Paris, 1986; ‘Towards an Authentic Regionalism’, ‘Session 3 on Regionalism’, in Suha Ozkan (Ed), Exploring Architecture in Islamic Cultures 2, Regionalism in Architecture, AKAA, also in Mimar 19, both Singapore, Concept Media, 1986; ‘Modernism and the Search for Indian Identity’, Architectural Review, August, 1987; the aforementioned book on Balkrishna Doshi, 1988 ‘The Construction of the East, Myths of Indian Architecture’, Times Literary Supplement, August 30th, 1991 ( a nuanced idea of Indian tradition as a dynamic development combining several temporal ‘layers’, imports and transformations, universal qualities and local accents); ‘Le Corbusier’s Capitol in Chandigarh as a Cosmic and Political Landscape’, A+U, 1999; texts in Chandigarh, Fifty Years of the Idea, 2000; and the aforementioned monograph on Anant Raje, 2012. See also Curtis, ‘Modern Architecture and the Excavation of the Past: Louis I. Kahn and the Indian Sub-Continent’, Jochen Eisenbrand (Ed), Louis. Kahn, The Power of Architecture, Vitra Design Museum, 2012, and Curtis, ‘Louis Kahn, The Space of Ideas’, Architectural Review, November 2012. Most recently, ‘Modernity and the Strata of the Past’, ‘Foreword’ to monographic supplement on Kashef Chowhdury , Architectural Review, December, 2013.

Curtis often sits on architectural juries, and has organized and designed exhibitions on subjects as diverse as Australian Aboriginal spear-throwers and the sketchbooks of Le Corbusier (shown at Harvard, NY, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh). He contributes regularly to critical journals such as the Architectural Review, Architectural Record, Il Giornale dell’Architettura, D’Architectures, Bauwelt, Architect’s Journal and El Croquis (with numbers on Alvaro Siza, Rafael Moneo, Tadao Ando, Miralles/Pinos, RCR Arquitectes etc). Curtis also exhibits and publishes his own paintings (Mental Landscapes/Paisajes Mentales, Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid 2002) and his own photographs (Structures of Light, Alvar Aalto Museum, 2007). Among his numerous awards: the Founder’s Award, Society of Architectural Historians, USA (1982), the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medal, SAH, Great Britain (1984), a National Honors Society Gold Medal in Architecture and Allied Arts, USA (1999) and a Medal of the Museum of Finnish Architecture (2006). Curtis is currently preparing an exhibition of his own paintings, drawings and photographs on the themes of abstraction, water and light, for the Alhambra, Granada.

William J R Curtis will also be in conversation with Dr B V Doshi at the Conference.

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