June 28, 2010

IF WE ONLY HAD A KING:

Of course traditional architecture is better: Any fair-minded person should ask themselves why this creative, dedicated, and invaluable public servant is subjected to so much captious denigration (Bruce Anderson, 6/28/10, Independent)

On Hyde Park Corner in London there stands Apsley House, the residence of the Dukes of Wellington, also known as No 1 London. Just down the road, on Knightsbridge, there is a new apartment block named One Hyde Park, a genuflection to its illustrious predecessor. The name is the only resemblance.

Apsley House's harmonious proportions have pleased the eye for more than two centuries. One Hyde Park proves that it is not necessary to use prominent concrete to create a brutalist building. With mere glass and steel, its architect, Richard Rogers, has achieved the triumph of ugliness. One Hyde Park deserves to be high on the shortlist for the most hideous building in cental London. It is owned by the Candy brothers, who also have an interest in the site of the former Chelsea Barracks. They commissioned Lord Rogers to design more flats.

Lord Rogers has form. He is famous for the Millennium Dome – the most absurd building in London: perhaps, indeed, of all time – and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Cultured, clever, patriotic, Georges Pompidou was an outstanding figure and a worthy successor to De Gaulle. His early death was doubly regrettable: ridiculously premature, it created fresh ridicule by enabling that vain, posturing ninny Giscard d'Estaing to become President of France. That was bad enough. It is a further disgrace that Pompidou's memorial should be much the ugliest building in central Paris.

Prince Charles has now saved London from another instalment of ugliness. Objecting to Lord Rogers's brutalist designs, he persuaded the Qatari royal family to withdraw their support. Last week, a judge described the Prince of Wales's intervention as "unwelcome". Unwelcome to whom? Unwelcome, certainly, to those who wish to inflict renewed vandalism upon London's cityscape. But the judge's comments will seem incomprehensible to anyone who wishes to save London from even more aesthetic depredation. To those who love London, the Prince's intervention could not have been more welcome.



Posted by Orrin Judd at June 28, 2010 3:27 PM
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