William J.R. Curtis, historian, critic, writer, painter, photographer, was born in Birchington, Kent, England, on March 21,1948 and resides in south west France. Educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London University (First Class Honours 1970) and at Harvard University (PhD 1975), he has taught at universities in Europe, USA, Australia, Asia and Latin America: among others, Harvard University; the University of California; the Architectural Association, London; the University of Sydney; UNAM, Mexico City; ETSAB, Barcelona; Helsinki Institute of Technology; the Accademia, Mendrisio, Switzerland; and the University of Cambridge.
Perhaps Curtis’ best known books are: Modern Architecture Since 1900 (Phaidon 1982; second ed. 1987; fully revised third ed. 1996), and Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms (Phaidon 1986). These have been referred to as ‘classics’ and have been translated into several languages (Spanish, German, Japanese in both cases, French and Italian as well, in the case of the former). Among his other books: Le Corbusier/English Architecture 1930’s (Open University 1975); Le Corbusier at Work (Harvard 1978, ed. E.F. Sekler) ; Balkrishna Doshi: an Architecture for India (Mapin, Rizzoli 1989); Denys Lasdun: Architecture, City, Landscape (Phaidon, 1994). Curtis’s most recent books include: Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon: Obra Completa (Arquine, Reverte, Mexico 2004) and RCR Aranda , Pigem, Vilalta Arquitectes (Gustavo Gili, Barcelona 2004).
Curtis has lectured extensively around the world. He has also held numerous honorary posts. Among these: the Power Lectures, Australia, 1981; the Mies van der Rohe Lectures, I.I.T. Chicago, 1987; the Banister Fletcher Lectures, London, 1988; the Simpson Visiting Professorship, University of Edinburgh, 1990, 1991; the Berthold Lubetkin Memorial Lecture,1995; the Annual Sir John Soane Lecture, London, 1997; the Slade Professorship in Fine Arts, University of Cambridge , 2003-4. He has also received several international prizes for his writings: the Founder’s Award of the Society of Architectural Historians, USA, 1982; the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, 1984; the Critic’s Award of the Comité international des critiques d’architecture, 1985; a Silver Medal at the World Architectural Biennale, 1989; a Historical Monograph Award from the American Institute of Architects, 1997; a National Honor Society Gold Medal in Architecture and Allied Arts (USA), 1999.
Curtis is currently engaged in critical debates in the ‘third’ world as well as the ‘first’ and his writings on contemporary architecture appear regularly in international journals. Among these are extensive articles and interviews in monographs published by El Croquis (Madrid) on Alvaro Siza, Rafael Moneo, Tadao Ando, Herzog & De Meuron, the younger generation in Spain etc. He has also written historical , critical and theoretical texts on subjects as varied as modern architecture, landscape design, the history of everyday objects, the process of design, classicism, historiography, Indian architecture, the vernacular and the abstraction of nature in painting. In addition to more than a dozen monographs, Curtis has written introductions to several major exhibition catalogues (e.g. Le Corbusier: Architect of the Century, London, 1987; Alvar Aalto in Seven Buildings, Helsinki, 1998).
As well as writing books and critical essays, Curtis exhibits and publishes his paintings, drawings and photographs. An exhibition of his drawings, paintings and reliefs entitled ‘ Mielen Maisemia/ Mental Landscapes’ was shown at the Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki in 2000 accompanied by the small book Mental Landscapes (Alvar Aalto Academy, 2000); another, entitled ‘Mental Landscapes/ Paisajes Mentales’ took place at the Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid in 2002 accompanied by the book Mental Landscapes/ Paisajes Mentales: William J.R. Curtis, (Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, 2002); yet another took place at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University in 2004. An exhibition devoted to Curtis’s architectural photographs “Architectures du Monde .Le regard de William J.R .Curtis” took place at the Centre Méridional de l’Architecture et de la Ville in Toulouse in 2004-5 and at the Forum de l’Urbanisme et de l’Architecture in Nice in summer 2005 and is currently traveling.