Rowe, Colin

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Rowe, Colin (1920–99). English architectural critic and teacher. He established his reputation in the 1940s with a series of papers in which he explored a supposed Classical continuity within Modernism and probed ideas that lay behind forms. He demonstrated that Le Corbusier's proportional systems regulating the structural grid and the façade of the Villa Stein at Garches (1926–8) were the same as those used by Palladio, e.g. at the Villa Malcontenta. He held that much International Modern architecture of the 1920s offered paradigms for the second half of C20. However, by 1998, Rowe, like many others, appears to have come to regret his championship of the Modern Movement, finding the study of Renaissance buildings ‘gratifying and refreshing as the spectacle of Modern Architecture’ became ‘more depressing’.

His works include The Architecture of Good Intentions (1994), As I Was Saying: Recollections and Miscellaneous Essays (1996), and The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays (1976). Rowe gave his disciples metaphors and historical references as generators of modern forms, and his belief that there was a direct architectural relevance between the Classical past and the protagonists of the Modern Movement had profound effects on late-C20 theory and design. He collaborated with Fred (Alfred) H. Koetter (1938– ) for Collage City (1978) in which he advocated the use of collage and mixed historical references, which influenced the work of Stirling, among others. By proposing a wide-ranging eclecticism, he appeared to view collage as a method ‘for using things and simultaneously disbelieving in them’. It would seem that a manipulation of themes used as collage in design might be a means of enjoyment without depth, for conviction and belief were no longer possible.


Wi. Curtis (1996);
Rowe (1976, 1994, 1996);
Rowe et al. (1968, 1984, 2002)