“He knew that watertight compartments are useful only to a sinking ship”

Hugh MacDairmaid on Patrick Geddes


John McKean writes: “While my interest has always centred on the ideas and histories of architecture as broadly as possible, my focus – based on opportunities, chance and invitations – has turned out (so far) to be been on Classical Greece, the architecture and urbanism of the last 150 years, and particularly the last 50.

Since the 1960s I have also been writing about Glasgow, where I grew up and studied architecture. I studied Alexander Thomson and, more recently, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Queen's Cross Glasgow, with Mackintosh church to left

Queen’s Cross Glasgow, with Mackintosh church to left

Thomson (now demolished) urban block to right. J.McK photo 1970

Thomson (now demolished) urban block to right. J.McK photo 1970

Within the 19th Century, one particular focus is the mid-century European ‘urban umbrellas’ built in glass and iron.

I have focused on English Modernism but also then concentrated on two Anglophile Europeans, Walter Segal and Giancarlo De Carlo both of whom were good friends. My monograph on De Carlo is my most recent complete book.

As a citizen I have campaigned (successfully) against a proposed inner-urban motorway, and written about the urban environment. Having been, through the 1990s, director of courses in Interiors, I have studied the forms and spaces of interior architecture, and particularly the idiosyncratic Venetian Carlo Scarpa. Having been for many years a teacher of architects, I have written about its education and practice.

I have mused on all sorts of architectural ideas and I hope ‘Historical Studies and Architectural Criticism’, a talk I gave over a decade ago in Oslo about my approach (it was published in 2001), might make some sense of my trajectory.”

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