David Thistlewood, Liverpool university art historian
In the current architectural climate the edges between art, particularly installations, and architecture, especially speculative, have blurred, to the benefit of the reconfirmation of architecture as an art.
David Thistlewood, professor of the history of art and architecture at the University of Liverpool, was a pioneer in bringing art and architecture together. Trained at Leeds College of Art and the University of Newcastle, he joined the staff at Liverpool in 1973, along with Simon Pepper, the distinguished historian of fortifications. Publishing his work on Herbert Read in 1984, he clearly identified his position as one that bridged any divide between art and architecture, while his training as an artist, an architectural educator and an academic allowed him to understand in depth the practices, discourses and institutional forms of each separate discipline.
These interests preceded the current interests in the arts in critical and cultural studies and David established himself as a generous teacher, a PhD supervisor of extraordinary range, and a lecturer of considerable vivacity.
Arguing from a firm general theoretical base he could also underscore the local, regional and national characteristics which established an often ironic dialectic in his discussions. Thus he could take on pioneering work with Edward Healey in fixing the output of Connell Ward and Lucas, and enjoy to the full their particular brand of ducking and diving in architecture and patronage. Simultaneously he could initiate an adventurous teaching programme in Israel, dealing with issues of curatorship and museology. Alongside this he found time to edit a series of monographs on artists such as Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke. He had been working with colleagues here on a revamped Masters of Architecture course.
His appetite for innovation was enviable, his energy redefined the term workaholic, and the devotion of staff and students drew us all into feeling that each enjoyed a particular call upon him. Finally, he was that most inscrutable of the English, a Yorkshireman, crazy about rugby, enamoured of walking the Dales, and devoted to his family. He was also devoted to art, architecture and to his work in the university. His sudden death at 54 excises a force for this school and for the world of the arts which none can replace.