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Sunday, May 20, 2007
RIP Sandy Wilson
Colin St John Wilson, seminal professor at Cambridge architecture department (where I studies though not, of course, under him) and best known or infamous as the architect of the British Library, died last week. It is funny how the press fell over themselves to eulogise him although most of them were very dismissive of the BL when it opened. But the reminiscences of him were largely just - his wide scope of interests (including an extraordinary mid-century art collection), his belief in a humane, nuanced and warm architecture, his admiration of Alvar Aalto (which prompted many borrowed architectural motifs) and his work at Cambridge. Like myself, and indeed like a former assistant to Wilson and subsequent Cambridge professor Peter Carolin, he actually applied to Cambridge to read History and switched to architecture.

I most recently went to the new wing at Pallant House which houses his art collection in a building he designed in collaboration with MJ Long, his 'life' partner, and her firm Long & Kentish. It was a serene and noble building, responding to its setting in historic Chichester with grace but not condescension, and appropriately of its time, despite its Aalto references. He is an architect who will be sorely missed, even if much of the architectural world has learnt to appreciate his merits only on his passing.

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