Adrian Forty has been a major figure in design history and criticism for over forty years. A protégé of influential author and critic Reyner Banham, he joined the faculty of the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London as a professor of architectural history in 1973, remaining there until his retirement in 2014. The master’s degree program in architectural history that Forty created there in 1981 was among the earliest of its kind in the world, and his efforts greatly expanded the possibilities for studying and teaching in that field. Sharing Banham’s belief that architecture and design—and their history and criticism—should be an active part of a culture and not solely for the elite, Forty is admired for his accessible lectures and writings, his emphasis on first-hand observation, and his attunement to political and cultural realities.
Forty’s books have explored the world of consumer goods (Objects of Desire: Design and Society since 1750, from 1986), the verbal discourse of architecture (Words and Buildings: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture, from 2004), and the cultural significance of a building material (Concrete and Culture: A Material History, from 2012), among other topics. In recognition of his contributions, the Royal Institute of British Architects named him an honorary fellow in 2012. His role as a mentor to a generation of design scholars is captured in Forty Ways to Think about Architecture: Architectural Theory Today (2014), a Festschrift inspired by his work.
While in Rome, Forty presented a lecture titled “Concrete and Culture.”