GILES WORSLEY 1961 - 2006
I cherish a copy of one of Giles Worsley's books, which Giles (who died last week at the tragically early age of 44) inscribed for an 'adopted Yorkshireman'. Giles was a passionate lover of his native county. His background was aristocratic, the second son of a baronet, the late Sir Marcus Worsley of Hovingham Hall, North Yorkshire - an extraordinary Georgian house designed by an ancestor and dominated by its magnificent Palladian riding school. This was a clear source of inspiration for a young man who would radically recast critical views of 17th- and 18th-century English architecture.
Born in 1961, Giles went to Eton and Oxford, then on to the Courtauld Institute, writing an outstanding doctoral thesis which was eventually published as The British Stable (2004). Meanwhile, Giles had established himself as a rising star of architectural history. Marcus Binney gave him a job at Country Life and in 1989 he became architectural editor. He was anxious that the magazine should be a source not only for history but for critical coverage of contemporary architecture.
Commissioned to write pieces on Michael Hopkins, Dixon Jones, Ted Cullinan and others, I was impressed by the breadth of Giles' interests and by his genuine open mindedness.
Giles' most significant scholarly work, Classical Architecture in Britain: the Heroic Age, appeared in 1995.
By this time, he was editor of Perspectives, the architectural magazine launched by the Prince of Wales and aimed at the intelligent public rather than the profession.
Giles poured all he had into the job, making Perspectives a refreshingly pluralist journal and not the purely Classicist organ that some, including perhaps the Prince, had expected. The closure of the magazine was both sudden and extremely badly handled and Giles (who had royal connections via his aunt, the Duchess of Kent) was privately critical of the Prince's role in the matter. Fortunately, however, an opening appeared as architecture correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, a role that Giles filled with distinction into the last weeks of his life.
Giles submitted the work of every architect, living and historic, to the same critical edge - while the Prince of Wales, for example, turned St Paul's Cathedral into an icon of civilisation, Giles recognised that it was far from being Wren's greatest work - 'not that good a building!' He admired the work of Adjaye and Hadid alongside that of Simpson and Porphyrios, but declined to ally himself too closely to any of them. An ardent conservationist with an enthusiasm for good new design, he was well equipped to serve on the Royal Fine Art Commission, CABE's design review panel, and other bodies.
Diagnosed with cancer a year ago, Giles fought the illness bravely - his scholarly legacy includes two books yet to be published. He will be hugely missed by so many of us, but our thoughts are naturally with his wife, Joanna, whom he married in 1996, and his young daughters.