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The Letters of Colin Rowe: Five Decades of Correspondence

Daniel Naegele

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Spanning a period of over half a century, from the early 1940s until his death in 1999, Colin Rowe wrote a multitude of letters to his parents in England and to friends Henry Russell Hitchcock and Ernst Gombrich; to colleagues Stanford Anderson, Robert Maxwell, Michael Spens, Alan Colquhoun, Alvin Boyarsky, John Miller; to architects Louis Kahn and Peter Eisenman; and most intimately and candidly, to his brother, sister–in–law and nephews in Oxford, England. Informal and elegant ruminations, they detail Rowe’s life in Austin, Ithaca, Rome and Washington, addressing a wide range of subjects from furniture, landscapes, politics, history, education and ageing, to architecture and the urban condition. Resounding with wit and wisdom, each letter is written in the incomparable style for which Rowe is justifiably famous.

Professor Anthony Eardley introduces and edits the book with Daniel Naegele, architect, writer and Associate Professor of Architecture at Iowa State University. The collection has been brought together with the blessing of David Rowe, Colin Rowe’s brother.

Colin Rowe, who died in 1999 aged 79, was tutor to Professor Robert Maxwell and the renowned architect Sir James Stirling, and won the profession’s most prestigious awards: the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal in 1995, and the American Institute of Architects’ Topaz Medallion.

Rowe taught at Liverpool University School of Architecture, the University of Texas School of Architecture, Cooper Union, Cornell University and Cambridge University. His critical debut was in the Architectural Review in March 1947, with the essay “Mathematics of the Ideal Villa” that was followed by many seminal works—such as “Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal”, written with Robert Slutzky and Collage City, co-authored with Fred Koetter which deeply influenced international architectural culture.

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