Celebrating Max Horner: New design prize to take architecture students to India

4 May 2023

Celebrating Max Horner: New design prize to take architecture students to India

Maxwell Horner (1950–2009) was a skilled architect, brilliant educator and valued mentor, known for his intense teaching style and enthusiasm for design and drawing. Now, fourteen years after his passing, architecture students at The University of Queensland will benefit from Max’s passion through the commencement of Max’s Design Prize.

The biennial travelling scholarship provides an opportunity for students that have shown the greatest ‘development and passion for design’ to undertake a drawing study of Indian architecture, for inclusion in the UQ Architecture Department Library Collection. 

The establishment of the prize as a trust in Max's will was a testament to his vision and generosity and we are excited to announce the award of these scholarships in the belief that Max's legacy will now live on through the students who will benefit from this scholarship. 

Antony Moulis, Interim Dean and Head of UQ’s School of Architecture, said Max’s legacy as an inspiring educator would live on in this wonderful opportunity.

“Max greatly valued his own personal experience witnessing the rich building traditions of India and we are very grateful of his gift supporting students to experience and study the architecture of the subcontinent,” he said.

Max also bequeathed a portrait of himself to UQ, which currently hangs in the Zelman Cowen Building at St Lucia (Portrait of Max Horner, Rod Bunter, 1994).

Students eligible for Max’s Design Prize are those enrolled in the Bachelor of Architectural Design course at The University of Queensland who have not yet commenced their fourth year. Selection of the recipient/s for each alternate calendar year will be made by a panel of at least three staff members who are lecturing in Architectural Design at UQ. The prize will cover return economy airfares, accommodation, insurance, sustenance and other expenses integral to the student experience while in India. The program will begin this year.

Honorary Professor Cameron Bruhn, former Dean and Head of the School of Architecture and now CEO of the Australian Institute of Architects, was a student of Max’s at UQ in 1999. He described Max as a “gifted, generous and determined teacher” who passionately imparted his love of architecture to his students.

“Over many years Max made a significant contribution to the School, its community and the progress of architecture in Australia. His generosity through this gift will greatly enrich the experiences of future generations of students,” Bruhn said.

Emeritus Professor Brit Andresen and former Professor and Head of the School of Architecture Michael Keniger, who were both colleagues of Max’s at UQ, said the travelling scholarships will enhance the opportunities open to students, reflecting Max’s generous approach to teaching.

“Unquestionably, Max was dedicated to teaching – and developed educational programs that directly expanded the involvement of students in the elements of the courses he offered,” Keniger said.

“His approach challenged conventional responses and spurred exploration. In addition to architectural design, he encouraged the embrace of graphic communication in all its forms and the use of physical models to illuminate ideas in construction. His dedication, energy and commitment to the central role of the teaching of architecture was deeply appreciated by his students – and by his colleagues.”

Max taught architectural design and construction at The University of Queensland from 1973 until he retired in 2003. In an obituary published on ArchitectureAU.com, Angela Reilly and Michael Vann described how Max would teach six months on and six months off, “which gave both Max and the students a break from the intensity of his teaching style.”

It also offered Max the opportunity to work on his own projects or accept invitations to teach a semester at other schools of architecture, and gave him time away to develop briefs for the following semester. “As many of Max’s students would confirm, it was the brief that set his projects apart. The briefs explored the complex and the alternative – allowing students to discover a world and an architecture that was beyond the range of the nuclear. The inherent complexity compelled the student to draw, if only to understand, as it was by drawing that the solution would come.”[1]

In the early 1990s Max led travel studios to India, taking some UQ students to work with Abhikram’s award-winning conservation architects Parul Zeveri and Nimish Patel and students from the CEPT school in Ahmedabad. The work with Abhikram included the documentation of historical structures in Amber.

Max travelled throughout India, building an extensive collection of images, sketches and diagrams, which he used in his teaching. Emeritus Professor Andresen said Max had “enjoyed and celebrated” the experience and had spoken and written about it with excitement.

“Working in Amber and travelling in Rajasthan, and beyond, were inspirational for Max and the students both personally and academically,” Emeritus Professor Andresen said.

“It is Max’s profound experience of this visit to India and his long-standing love of teaching, particularly in the first three years of the course, that underpins his bequest to support a travel scholarship for students in UQ’s School of Architecture.”

Former student Peter Loveday, now Head of EFL materials Development at Net Languages, Spain, describes how Max Horner was curious, playful and a “brilliant educator.” Loveday received a Bachelor of Design Studies from UQ in 1979.

“As a first-year architecture student at UQ, I knew very little about anything, and even less about architecture. From the start, no matter what bewildering task was at hand, Max would be there, looking over your shoulder, unwittingly and effortlessly presenting a myriad of possibilities, a new way of seeing. He'd think things through with you out loud, and this was a fascinating experience,” Loveday said.

“His curious and playful mind was, of course, inspiring. Talented with pencil or brush in hand, he'd casually sketch out an idea – your idea – on the corner of your page, in some way giving you everything you'd need. You just had to pick it up and run with it. ‘Try it,’ he'd say, ‘Why not.’

“Never intrusive, always entertaining with his anecdotes and observations, conjuring up things in the air with his busy fingers. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but he was a brilliant educator, a motivator, a facilitator. He did not deliver conventional, formal instruction, it was more like immersion in a world of possibility.”

The University of Queensland would like to thank the late Max Horner for his dedication and generosity. Max’s legacy and the establishment of Max’s Design Prize will be celebrated at a private event, and an information event for students will be announced soon.

For more information about the scholarship go to https://scholarships.uq.edu.au/scholarship/maxs-design-prize