Robert Maxwell: The Letter, the Lost Sketchbook and the Lecture


These three sketches are from a sketchbook that Robert Maxwell used while studying at the Liverpool School of Architecture in 1944. They are reproduced here to mark the publication of Robert Maxwell: the Letter, the Lost Sketchbook and the Lecture, edited by Celia Scott, which is now available through Drawing Matter’s online bookshop (HERE). The sketchbook itself is currently on exhibition at the Irish Architectural Archive, Dublin, as part of the exhibition Sweet Disorder and the Carefully Careless: Ideas, Faces and Places (12 September – 25 November 2022).

Robert Maxwell, sketches from the ‘Lost Sketchbook’, 1944. Pen and ink on paper. Courtesy of Celia Scott.

One sketch — a drawing of a building with a hole cut through it — seems to anticipate an idea actually carried out by Gordon Matta-Clark thirty years later (himself a student at Cornell University School of Architecture when Colin Rowe was professor there). In this same drawing there are images of what could be standing stones, along with a telephone handset — its cord weaving snake-like through a ladder. Could this be the start of Maxwell’s preoccupation with Ancient Wisdom and Modern Knowhow — the title of his book more than half-a-century later — from which the lecture, as essay in this book, is taken? (Celia Scott, quoted from the introduction to the book.)