David Dunster obituary

My friend David Dunster, who has died aged 73, was an inspiring and influential teacher of architecture. His former students include Sir David Chipperfield, the founding partners of the Stirling prizewinning Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and the architect and Harvard chair Farshid Moussavi.

David was born in Strood, Kent, son of William Dunster, a carpenter at Chatham naval dockyard, and his wife, Dorothy (nee Hook), a bus conductor. David attended Gillingham grammar school and then in 1963 went to the Bartlett School of Architecture, part of University College London, graduating in 1968.

In the early 1970s he worked for Dex Harrison Pollard architects on projects including housing in Basildon New Town, and taught part-time at Canterbury School of Art and at Kingston School of Art (now Kingston University). He became a senior lecturer in architecture at Kingston in 1978. In 1983 he moved to the Bartlett school and became professor of architecture at Liverpool University in 1995.

David was an acute critic and a fine lecturer, but it was running studio design projects where he made his biggest contribution. Studios in architecture schools are often forbidding to outsiders; he accepted the reality of architecture’s sometimes arcane language and procedures, while setting projects inviting students to think more broadly about the consequences of their work.

At the Bartlett he designated areas of London such as the King’s Cross railway lands, inviting each student to select a site and develop their own programme for it. Many rose to the challenge. David then upped the ante by inviting non-architects to give their opinion on the results.

He eschewed traditionalism. When he was quoted in the Daily Mail describing Prince Charles’s 1988 Vision of Britain film as the level he would expect from a dim second-year student, it provoked hate mail.

However, he recognised intellectual content in both post-modernism and modernism itself. He challenged apparent certainties and introduced unfamiliar ideas to his students, such as those of the Italian architect Aldo Rossi. He retired in 2010.

David could be abrasive, but was generous and hospitable. He suffered occasional poor health after a liver transplant in 1998; shortly before Christmas he was taken ill for a final time.

He is survived by his wife, Charlotte Myhrum, whom he married in 1991, and their son, Arthur.

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