Obituary: Robert M. Maxwell, 1922-2020
Anglo-Irish architect, author, critic, and educator Robert Maxwell died on January 2, in his 98th year, at his vacation home in Aix-en-Provence. Emeritus professor of architecture at the Princeton University School of Architecture, where he had been its dean (1982-1989), and prolific author of books and critical commentaries, Maxwell had played key roles at both the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Architectural Association School in London, in addition to Princeton.
I first met him in 1964, when I arrived at the Bartlett School of Architecture (University College London), where he was to be my supervisor for a prospective doctoral degree. Within a few months, this intellectual, brilliant, and personally generous tutor had introduced me to the legendary London architectural intelligentsia that eventually numbered Reyner Banham, Alan Colquhoun, Kenneth Frampton, Charles Jencks, Colin Rowe, Joseph Rykwert, Sam Stevens, James Stirling, and Antony Vidler, among others.
After having studied architecture at the Liverpool University, where he got a B.Arch. and a Diploma of Civic Design in 1949, Maxwell practiced architecture in London for the London County Council and Douglas Stephen & Partners. He had an extraordinarily productive writing career, publishing innumerable books and essays on many aspects of modern and post-modern architecture—even completing his autobiography (The Time of My Life, In Architecture) while in his nineties. Indeed, if Charles Jencks surely outstripped him as the leading cultural promoter of postmodernism in architecture, there is, in the end, no doubt in my mind that over the years—probably due to his long and close friendships with Colin Rowe and James Stirling—Maxwell became the movement’s most insightful theorist, one instance being his collection of essays from 1993: Sweet Disorder and the Carefully Careless. He is survived by his wife, the sculptor and painter Celia Scott.