Thomas A.P. van Leeuwen was professor of architectural history, cultural history and art criticism at Leyden University and at The Berlage Institute, Rotterdam, for many years. He had done research and taught at various post-graduate schools in Europe and the United States. He was Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, Harkness and Fulbright Fellow and Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Washington DC. Van Leeuwen’s approach to architectural history is mildly idiosyncratic. Contrary to regular practice, the Van Leeuwen method first strips down the architectural object to its smallest possible particle and then fans out to the widest possible ramifications. The Springboard in the Pond: An Intimate History of the Swimming Pool (1998) started off in architecture’s atomic beginnings as a simple hole in the ground in order to culminate in excursive explorations into man’s conflicting attitudes toward water. Columns of Fire: The Un-doing of Architecture, the third volume, largely published as articles in ea. Cabinet Magazine, Harvard Design Magazine and Hunch, describes architecture’s passionate relationship with fire. Fire the builder-fire the destroyer. The study on the collaboration between Alexis Soyer, the great chef-de-cuisine, and Charles Barry, the most famous yet most unknown of British architects, is part of this volume: The Magic Stove: Barry, Soyer and The Reform Club or How a Great Chef Helped to Create a Great Building, the first publication of Les Editions du Malentendu (2017) . Thomas A P Van Leeuwen’s books also include a historical analysis of the contradictory ascent of the tall building The Skyward Trend of Thought: Metaphysics of the American Skyscraper (1986). These studies are part of a tetralogy with each volume centred on the relationship between architecture and one of the classical elements: Air, Water, Fire and Earth. The last volume deals with Earth: The Thinking Foot: A Pedestrian View of Architecture, an inquiry into the undervalued qualities of Surface, demonstrated by a history of paving and the various consequences of hard superficiality.
Pierre De Roo
Helen Ibbitson Jessup