An Architecture of Invention: Colin St John Wilson

An Architecture of Invitation: Colin St John Wilson is a distinctive study of the life and architectural career of one of the most significant makers, theorists and teachers of architecture to have emerged in England in the second half of the twentieth century. Exceptionally in an architectural study, this book interweaves biography, critical analysis of the projects, and theory, in its aims of explicating the richness of Wilson's body of work, thought and teaching. Drawing on the specialisms of its authors, it also examines the creative and psychological impulses that have informed the making of this work - an oeuvre whose experiential depth is recognized by both users and critics. Wilson's work seeks an order that is not self-contained but is rather open to site, to light, to human touch, and to circumstance: for him this demands an ethical choice between the rival claims of Art and Life. Thus his work might be characterized as an architecture of invitation, predicated on the notion of architecture as a Practical Art, whereby form is born out of a process of painstakingly searching out the particular and psychological needs of the user. The ethic identified in the book takes Wilson beyond technocratic obsessions or transient pre-occupations with style, towards a more radical agenda than many would recognize. This is evidenced in Wilson's concern to address both the 'inner' (the psyche, physiological needs, and patterns of use) and the 'outer' (the humanist polis) in his architecture. Such agendas are timely and throw a significant challenge to the pervasive individualism of the object-city of 'landmark' architecture.