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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
I 1950 - 1960
The Manchester University Faculty of Architecture
  In 1946, the first great post-war Picasso-Matisse Exhibition took place in Manchester.  Visiting it had rekindled my artistic spirit.  Memories however of the white plaster casts of classical statues which I had been forced to draw at the Art School that I had attended as a young boy, now detracted me from embarking on the life of a professional painter. With an uncharacteristic modesty, I decided that a quiet profession of scholarly research into the History of Modern Art should become my next ambition. An important art historian was teaching this subject at Manchester University. He was considered in those days to be the authority on the contemporary School of French Painting, which after having seen the Manchester exhibition, had become my current enthusiastic obsession. As important as he was, I have sadly forgotten this Professor's name, but I remember that he received me most graciously, pleased maybe by the high opinion that I had of him.  With great patience he listened to the reasons why I wanted to study the History of Art. After questioning me in a very kind but thorough way, he gently and with great circumlocution told me that in his judgment I did not have, as he put it, “the scholastic temperament” to become an art historian.  He felt that I should talk to his colleague, Professor R. A. Cordingly; the Head of the Faculty of Architecture, with the intent of enlisting me in the Diploma Course of Architecture. "There will be plenty of lectures on the History of Art" he assured me and that "eventually you may acquire a profession of a more practical nature, which would facilitate your achieving some if not all of your artistic ambitions".  Unable at that time to appreciate his astute judgment of my potential talents, or rather the lack of them, I was deeply disappointed to hear that yet another ambition, this time to be a renowned and respected Art Historian like himself, was to be aborted before it had even taken flight.; I did however assure him that I would make an appointment with Prof. R.A. Cordingly as he had suggested.  I did not realize then, that keeping this promise sealed my future. After an innumerable series of so many conflicting ambitions, this learned professor had finally faced me in the right direction that would enable me to become an Architect and eventually an Urban Planner; professions of unremitting optimism, oriented towards the future and human well being. I never met this eminent Art Historian again, but I have blessed him in my heart ever since.

   To achieve this new and ultimate ambition, I spent five years studying at the School of Architecture at Manchester University. I was reminded of this place and period of my University days, some time ago while reading the autobiography of Anthony Burgess, a writer for whom I have great respect, particularly for his critical evaluation of the work of James Joyce.  In Burgess’ book ‘’Little Wilson and Big God’’, I was astonished to read the description of the period of his own life as a student at Manchester University, some ten years before I went up.  Apart from the different subjects that he and I had studied there, everything seemed to have been exactly the same in his time as it was in mine.  Victoria College, as it was then known, was characteristically a ‘redbrick’ building and as soot-black in his days as I remember it in mine. 

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