John Harris

I read on twitter yesterday that John Harris had died and have now had it confirmed. It’s a great loss to architectural history. There will be many people who know more about his life than I do, but I know the gist of it. Born in 1931, so died aged ninety one; left school aged 14; got a job at the RIBA in 1956 and developed an astonishing knowledge of architectural drawings; attracted the attention of Nikolaus Pevsner who recruited him to help with the writing of his volume on Lincolnshire; established the RIBA Drawings Collection in premises next door to the Courtauld Institute with funding from Drue Heinz; organised the publication of its series of published catalogues which remain an important source for architectural history; helped to organise the exhibition The Destruction of the Country House in 1974, an exhibition of exceptional importance in changing the climate of public opinion towards country houses; published the major monograph on William Chambers in 1970; advised Paul Mellon on the acquisition of architectural drawings for what became the Yale Center for British Art; recruited many of the current generation of architectural historians to work for him at the RIBA Drawings Collection, including Neil Bingham and Tim Knox. But a catalogue of what he did does not convey the vitality of his personality, which is perhaps better conveyed by a photograph:-

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