'Courteous and cantankerous'
Martin Pawley has written his last AJ column, after an 11-year stint.
He has decided to quit before the combination of Parkinson's and dementia with Lewy bodies (a precursor to Alzheimer's) begins to impair his thinking and writing. Right now he looks and sounds fine.
He is as courteous and cantankerous as ever. But even the people who knew and avoided him will be sad to know that such a significant architectural critic is withdrawing from the fray.
It is particularly poignant for us here at AJ because, for a couple of years in the late 1960s, Pawley, straight out of the Architectural Association (AA), cut his writing teeth as assistant AJ editor before returning to the AA as a tutor. In the early '70s Pawley established an international reputation in the use of waste material for low-cost housing, which was bolstered by publication of Architecture versus Housing in 1971 and Garbage Housing in 1975. In between these he was appointed to advise the Chilean government about emergency steel housing, a project that was abruptly terminated when socialist president Salvador Allende was murdered in the right-wing Pinochet coup. Pawley then became a UN consultant and taught at Cornell and Rensselaer, ending up a tenured professor at the Tallahassee-based Florida A&M University. He would talk about the size of the cockroaches and the humidity.
At the beginning the next decade he was back in London, where he took on the editorship of Building Design when Ian Martin was news editor. Two-and-a-half years later he threatened to walk out once too often and re-emerged as the AJ's news editor. Since then he has done many things: correspondent for several nationals, adviser to the BBC, and contributor to a bewildering range of magazines and organisations. He has also written a prodigious number of articles and columns: he twice won the Periodical Publishers Association Columnist of the Year awards and was runner-up another year. You wonder how that crumpled face and rusty voice managed it. And you put up with the cantankerousness in amazement.