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The AJ bids a fond farewell to its most unsentimental columnist

editorial

It's tricky to know how to reflect on the departure of Martin Pawley from the AJ. While it's hard not to feel the loss of somebody who has been such a key part of the magazine for quite so long, it is just as hard to be sentimental about somebody so unswervingly unsentimental himself.

Suffice to say that he has been an exemplary columnist: obstreperous, argumentative, outspoken and quick to point an accusing finger at anything generally considered above reproach. It was Pawley who first raised questions over Richard Rogers' increasing political power, with the characteristic opening line: 'It might seem sacrilegious to couple the name of a latter-day saint like Sir Richard Rogers with any suggestion of conflict of interest.' It was Pawley, again, who repeatedly pointed out the many paradoxes and inconsistencies that dog the evangelical quest to create environmentally friendly architecture.

Bolstered by intimidating intellect, encyclopedic knowledge and extensive expertise, his impish insights amounted to a sustained critique of a profession that is too prone to self-righteousness and too wary of debate.

And it was impossible not to admire his nerve. It's hard to imagine anybody else who would have had the gall to use an invitation to speak at Ove Arup & Partners to advise, in all seriousness, that 'what the chaps at Arup should really be doing is exploring the potential of making air-conditioned, artificially lit, heavily insulated, sealed buildings more habitable; not by giving their occupants levers to pull, or jumpers to put on, but by creating within them entire synthetic environments of the most wondrous kind'.

You might hate what he said, but you had to admire the way he said it. Irritatingly, for his detractors, his musings were delivered in prose that was beautifully written, logically coherent and factually correct.

Gratifyingly, for his editors, he demonstrated an understanding of libel law that kept them just on the right side of trouble - until now. He informs me that he is looking forward to reading about himself in the AJ and that a letter from his solicitor will be in the post.

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