Stuart Durant studied architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. The prevailing ideology was Brutalism with which he failed to empathize. He decided to become a painter. He had a modest success, but soon realized he had no real passion for painting. He worked for a decade as a designer for television and designed major shows. During this period he produce a range of textiles for Edinburgh Weavers and he became interested in the language of decoration, which he considered had affinities with abstraction. He advised Sir Ernst Gombrich on certain visual aspects of his Sense of Order. Television — where designs vanish swiftly into the ether — became progressively less attractive as a profession. He was rescued by an invitation to write a doctoral thesis on Christopher Dresser at the Royal College of Art — the first history of design thesis at the institution. After the death of Charles Handley Read, his academic supervisor, he decided to write on Dresser as a botanist. Handley Read had strongly advised against attempting an appraisal of Dresser's botany. He wrote the thesis in the Royal Botanic Gardens Herbarium Library where he was advised by eminent botanists. Fatherhood and the ensuing shortage of money prompted Stuart Durant to settle for an MPhil, rather than a doctorate.
He began lecturing at Kingston University, where he became Reader in the History of Architecture and Design. He also became Course Director of the Kingston University Master's Degree in Communication Design; he still advises on the course. He has published extensively on architecture and design and his writings have been translated into French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. He has lectured in France, India and the United States and at Cambridge, Oxford, and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He has acted as consultant to several publishers and important exhibitions, most recently on an extensive travelling exhibition on the 1960s for Japan which will take place in 2010. He was the originator of the International Design Yearbook, which was published between 1985-2007. Currently he is completing a new and greatly enlarged edition of his Ornament, a survey of decoration since the industrial revolution, and beginning work on a study of the Amsterdam School.
Created 12 April 2010
Last modified 26 August 2020