Obituary: David Pye

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The Independent Online
David Pye, woodworker, designer and writer, born 18 November 1914, Professor of Furniture Design, Royal College of Art 1964-74, OBE 1985, books include The Things We See: Ships 1950, The Nature of Design 1964, The Nature and Art of Workmanship 1968, The Nature and Aesthetics of Design 1978, married 1944 Pamela Waller (died 1992; one son, one daughter), died 1 January 1993.

DAVID PYE was an unusually gifted man, writes Richard La Trobe-Bateman. The publicly known gifts of maker and explainer were guided by a moral and ethical clarity so rare and so devalued in contemporary society. His nature had no room for the pervasive modern media and self- promotional hype; there were more worthwhile things to be dealing with.

In the last 20 years, the central importance of his insight into made objects and how we 'see' them came in the world of design to be crucial to a few, talked about by a larger number, and ignored by the rest. But he changed it for all of them whether they knew it or not. His main work has an intensity, a love of, and a respect for, the material, mostly wood, which is very rare. His written work is full of observations that could only be gained by someone who actually made things, not just occasionally but all the time, which is what he did throughout his life.

His writing is said by some people to be difficult to understand, but that is because they started with the expectation that design and making was a relatively simple activity that could be easily understood (if not actually accomplished) by any educated person. The fact that he had to define a whole set of terms in The Nature of Design with which to discuss the subject shows how deficient our culture is in its understanding of design and making. He will go down in history as a key figure in the education of our visually unenlightened society. His spirit survives in his students, who comprise a substantial part of this generation of teachers.

(Photographs omitted)