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Colin Rowe (born Rotherham, England 1920 - died November 5, 1999, Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.) was a British-born architectural historian, critic, theoretician, and teacher. Between 1950 and his death he published a number of widely influential papers that influenced modern architecture by uncovering a conceptual relationship between modernity and tradition, specifically Classicism in all its manifestations, and Modern Movement "white architecture". Although he was an admirer of the achievements of the 1920s modernists, chiefly in the work of Le Corbusier, he also subjected the modern movement to subversive modes of criticism and interpretation. Rowe was among the first to openly denounce what he described as the failure of modern movement urban planning, because of what he considered its destructive effects on the historic city; many of his most important books and essays are more concerned with urban form than with architectural language. As an academic, notably at Cornell University in the 1970s, he focussed on the development of an alternative method of urban design, derived from the earlier work of Camillo Sitte and based on the making of public spaces.
His chief significance was as a teacher and writer on these subjects, which greatly influenced architectural thinking. His book Collage City (with Fred Koetter) proposed a new way of analysing urban form as the fragmented, incomplete result of every attempt ever made to organise it logically. In architecture he was nostalgic for nineteenth-century eclecticism and advocated that architecture in the modern age should abandon its purist abstration and allow itself to be influenced by influxes of historical references.
This attitude was profoundly influential on his acolyte and friend, James Stirling whom he taught at the University of Liverpool in the late 1940s. As he continued to publish ground-breaking, intellectually rich, unconventional essays on the history and theory of architecture, and became a permanent resident of the United States (becoming a US citizen towards the end of his life) he went on to influence many other architects, students, and architectural educators during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s (in 1966 he served as a fellow at the Graham Foundation in Chicago) at a time when there was a move towards Postmodern architecture with which he may be partly associated - though only to a very limited extent, since his range of ideas placed him far outside any particular style of architecture.
- The architecture of Good Intentions (1994)
- As I Was Saying: Recollections and Miscellaneous Essay (1996)
- The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays (1976)
- Collage City (1978) - Collaboration with Alfred Koetter
- The Texas Rangers
- Curl, James Stevens . A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (Paperback), Second (en English), Oxford University Press, 880. ISBN 0-19-860678-8.
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