John Frederick Harris OBE (born 1931) is an English curator, historian of architecture, gardens and architectural drawings, and the author of more than 25 books and catalogues, and 200 articles. He is a Fellow and Curator Emeritus of the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects, founding Trustee of SAVE Britain's Heritage and SAVE Europe's Heritage, and founding member and Honorary Life President of the International Confederation of Architectural Museums.
John Harris left school at the age of 14 in 1946. He travelled and took on miscellaneous jobs, before starting his proper career in 1954 working in an antiques shop, Collin and Winslow. In 1956 he joined the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Library and Drawings Collection in London, becoming curator of its British Architectural Library's Drawings Collection from 1960–86. This included the establishment in 1972 of a permanent home for the Drawings Collection in the James Adam designed house at 21 Portman Square (moved to the V&A Henry Cole Wing in 2002), next door to and sharing with the Courtauld Institute at Home House, 20 Portman Square (moved to Somerset House in 1989). Harris founded and organised 42 exhibitions at the Heinz Gallery, on the ground floor of 21 Portman Square, opened in 1972, designed by Stefan Buzas and Alan Irvine, given by Mr and Mrs Henry J Heinz II, being the first purpose built gallery for the display of architectural drawings in the English speaking world. The Gallery was purchased in 2000 by the Irish Architectural Archive and moved in 2003-4 to the ground floor of their relocated premises at 45 Merrion Square, Dublin, which opened to the public in 2005. RIBA's Drawings Collection Gallery was re-established in 2004 as part of the joint V&A and RIBA Architecture Partnership, creating the Architecture Gallery in Room 128 at the V&A.
Harris was a co-curator of the seminal Destruction of the Country House exhibition held at the V&A in 1974, with Sir Roy Strong and Marcus Binney, which gave impetus to the movement to conserve British country houses and the founding in 1975 of SAVE Britain's Heritage. He was editor of Studies in Architecture 1976–99. In 1996 he was a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Center, Getty Villa, Santa Monica. Harris also played a crucial role in the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and the Heinz Architecture Centre in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. He was a member for ten years of Mr Paul Mellon’s London Acquisitions Committee. Harris worked on the Victoria and Albert Primary Galleries Project (1996–2001). He has been on the Board of Trustees of The Architecture Foundation. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He is an expert on Palladian architecture, and has written about, among many others, Lord Burlington, William Kent and Sir William Chambers.
Harris is married to American historian and author Dr Eileen Harris (from circa 1961), has a son, Lucian Guthrie, and a daughter, Georgina, and lives in London and Badminton, Gloucestershire.
John Frederick Harris, UK
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