On Saturday last week, we lost our new unit tutor and visiting professor, Benoit Cornette, who was killed in a car accident in France.
The renowned French architect flew in from Paris on an overcast evening in late September to present to the Bartlett's diploma students his programme for Unit 22. Some of us were seduced by what we already know of his dynamic work, others were intrigued by the man dressed in black from head to toe. I had the pleasure of being the first student to meet Benoit for the unit interview the next day, and during the hour-long discussion it became evident how excited he was to have the chance to teach his own unit, and to start a programme which would seek to investigate thematics that his office has been recently working on, in Rotterdam.
Although it would be an exaggeration to say that we had come to know Benoit well, he will be sorely missed by his students and I imagine by his admirers too. It is difficult for us to realise that not only is he gone, but equally to imagine who will manage to continue pushing the boundaries of design and current architectural debate as he and his partner have done, both at the national level in France (against what he called the 'schools of New Modernism'), but equally on the international scene. Benoit Cornette and his partner Odile Decq are the sole French exhibitors at this year's forthcoming Buenos Aires Biennale, opening later this week.
This letter is not intended to take the form of an obituary. That must be left to his friends and colleagues. We wish simply to thank Benoit for letting us have the chance to know him, and to offer our condolences to his partner and friends. We had grown to enjoy and share his energy and his humour and to value his incredible insight. We will continue to let this shape the unit in our work still to come.
ON BEHALF OF UNIT 22,
Bartlett School of Architecture, London