Katherine Vaughan-Williams, known to her many students and more readers as Katherine Shonfield, was perhaps the most inventive and wide-ranging intellect of her generation in architecture. She was an architect, installation artist, writer and teacher, and, never really recognising the distinctions between them, exercised an extraordinary moral and critical force. She wrote as she spoke, whether privately or lecturing, or on the wireless. To hear her speak, even as her health declined, was to see her in full flow: her vivid gestures sharply emphasising the points she wanted to convey.
And what points they were.
Coming to architecture via a sociology degree and a stint as a planning officer, she brought wide experience and a richly cosmopolitan background to bear on a subject which all too often turns in on itself.Her parents, the economist Sir Andrew Shonfield and writer Zuzanna Shonfield, set high standards which were not easy to follow; they also demonstrated the efficacy of going against the grain. Andrew's book Modern Capitalism offered a revision of conventional sociologist economics while Blair was in short trousers. In The Precariously Privileged, Zuzanna documented the tribulations of upper middle class life in the 19th century. Katherine had a rare match of critical ability with originality of thought which made her insights scintillating, whether they were the analogies between films like Repulsion and the message of Cecil Handyside's construction manuals, or the palliative effects of PG Wodehouse.
She studied architecture at PCL with a short stint at Cambridge, as well as completing a masters in history of architecture at the Bartlett.
Her main teaching post was at South Bank, though she also taught at Kingston, PCL and the AA. Journalism expanded the audience for her views. One of the first pieces was a coruscating analysis of Richard Rogers'wavy roof over the South Bank Centre, correctly realising that the publicity images of it supposed the viewers were in a river-view suite in the Savoy.Her commitment to public space and life gave impetus to the early days of MUF and led to one of her more powerful performances, analysing the action of the bomber who attacked Brick Lane, Brixton's Electric Avenue and Soho's Old Compton Street as an attack on those urban spaces which facilitated tolerance and heterogeneity: that this was delivered at a conference in Johannesburg added an entirely deliberate piquancy.
Katherine had an extraordinary ability to console and alert - simultaneously - which made her one of the most stimulating people I have ever known.
Katherine Vaughan-Williams leaves her partner Julian and son Roman.