John Killick's death during September at the age of 47 after a long and cruel illness was the final act in a tragedy which cut short a distinguished career and in doing so deprived architecture of one of its liveliest minds.
He had been one of a notable group of young architects whose education was disrupted by the second world war. After demobilisation John Killick went to the AA School of Architecture and, when qualified, joined the LCC Architects Department. There he became one of a team whose work was largely responsible for the international praise - particularly for housing showered on County Hall during the fifties.
It was during this time that he collaborated with the three architects with whom he was later to be associated in the firm of Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis. From the LCC he moved on to teach at the AA School and also became Editor of the AA Journal on which he worked a great transformation both in content and form.
However, it was as a tutor that John Killick really left an indelible impression. Without doubt he was one of the really outstanding teachers in three School's long history. There can have been few studio masters who combined, as he did, an unbounding energy - meticulous attention to detail (bordering on obsession) constructive criticism (in the real meaning of the phrase) and, above all, the ability to instill enthusiasm and confidence into even the least promising of students; perhaps his finest quality. This of course does not mean to say that he could ever be fooled by the type of bogus attitude and behaviour which have unfortunately thrived in a large sector of the student population in recent years.
His illness - disseminated sclerosis - which he contracted whilst at the AA was, for a man of his vitality, doubly cruel. Nevertheless, he struggled on well beyond a point where sheer exhaustion would have got the better of most men. In the last years the frustration of not being able to enjoy, by direct involvement, the recognition which the HKPA Partnership are now receiving must have been particularly disappointing.
John Killick's influence on architecture, in this country, although difficult to define, does exist. It manifests itself in the work of those architects, in practice today, who had the good fortune to be his pupils during his time at the AA. Their debt to him is immeasurable.
Edgar Wind, Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at Oxford University who died recently aged 71, was one of Oxford's most brilliant lecturers - a man who for years packed the Playhouse in Beaumont Street full with undergraduates who listened, enthralled, to an hour or more on Raphael's cartoons, or the sculpture of Michaelangelo, or the many different aspects of the work of Leonardo. Right from the start, the subject would be illustrated by an exhaustive collection of slides while the commentary which accompanied them, spoken entirely without notes, would flow without a pause. Wind would take in all the relevant classical contemporary sources, quoting from Greek, Roman or Italian authors in their own tongue, usually following this with a brief resume in English, and would dissect pictures until the significance of every possible relationship between the different figures, even of every gesture, had been examined, and the painter's own intentions, his intellectual background, and all the precedence for historical, philosophical or religious allusions and allegories.
The lectures were, of course, intellectual tours de force. They were backed by an academic career which had begun with a doctorate at the age of 22, continued with research at Berlin, Freiburg and Hamburg universities, and then at the evacuated Warburg Institute in London before the war - and teaching at the University of Chicago and Smith College in America from 1942 until 1955, when Wind went to Oxford. There he was the first person to occupy the chair in the History of Art, and spent his time building up an extensive library of books and slides, lecturing and teaching, and advising the budding art historians like myself that before taking up the subject (at least as far as the Renaissance was concerned), one should have mastered at least seven languages and be familiar with literature in all of them, as well as with the work of those Germans responsible for making art an academic subject in the first place.
He was a Renaissance man himself, widely read, immensely knowledgeable, fluent, witty and, it must be said, at times difficult and short tempered, expecting standards which he could reach himself but which were well above those of most of his contemporaries. The department he founded at Oxford therefore has been given a solid academic base on which to build; while many undergraduates owe it to Wind, perhaps more than to anyone else at Oxford, for reminding them that, important as academic subjects are, one should also learn to use one's eyes.