David Watkin (2)

It is probably inevitable that I have been thinking more about David Watkin and what his influence was on a generation of architectural historians. He was at Trinity Hall in the early 1960s, but always regarded himself as a child of the 1950s, because he hated all aspects of the 1960s, its liberalism, its utopianism and its anti-authoritarianism. I think he must have been one of the first students of art history at Cambridge, but I don’t remember him having any interest whatever in fine art, only architecture, for which his tastes were actually much broader than his ostensibly narrow-minded classicism might suggest. His Ph.D on Thomas Hope was supervised by Nikolaus Pevsner and, for some reason, he bore a grudge against Pevsner – I think for not supporting him getting a first. By the time I got to Cambridge, he was very well established with luxurious book-lined rooms in the centre of St. Peter’s Terrace, which must have been owned by Peterhouse, where he would conduct his supervisions, accompanied by thin sherry at 6. But, although he seemed very old, I now realise he was in his early thirties, and every time I saw him subsequently seemed younger. At the time, he was pretty industrious, publishing a big biography of C.R. Cockerell in 1974, which won the Alice David Hitchcock Medallion in 1975, and Morality and Architecture, his most influential book in 1977. What was his influence ? He certainly encouraged a generation of students to treat architectural history as a serious scholarly disicipline.

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