Theo Crosby (1)

I spent last night at Pentagram in a discussion with Harry Pearce about the design of my book;  and this morning I have been reading more about the life of Theo Crosby, one of the founding partners of Pentagram and an eminence grise in the architectural world.   He was born in South Africa and studied architecture at the University of Witwatersrand, but left to serve as a driver in the South African armoured division in Italy, where he fell in love with the dense urban texture of Italian hill towns (‘I have come to value that memory, of leisured discussions about very little, of closely built, dirty and beautiful buildings, of well made fittings, of marvellous floors and pavings, gifts to the public’).   In London, he joined the office of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, studying sculpture in the evening at Central School where he made friends with his tutors, including Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi.   In 1953, he became technical editor of Architectural Design under Monica Pidgeon and helped to pioneer its odd mixture of zany graphics and an interest in both history and architectural ideas.   It sounds as if he was one of the key influences on the exhibition This is Tomorrow at the ICA, not least because of his long-term interest in the way that architecture can, and should, be combined with other arts.   In 1962, he joined Taylor Woodrow to work on the new Euston Station and in 1965 joined two friends from his time at Central School to establish Crosby Fletcher Forbes, a design partnership which in turn, with the arrival of Kenneth Grange, became Pentagram in 1972.   What seems clear is that much of the ethos of Pentagram was informed by Crosby’s anti-authoritarian and communitarian ideals which had been established by the spirit of team working in This is Tomorrow.

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