Carbuncle usually only takes a few weeks to heal, but the architectural contention is above National Gallery For nearly 40 years.
The latest explosion occurred last week, when the head of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) targeted eight of his predecessors for objecting to plans to reform the gallery. Sainsbury’s Suite.
In remarks directed to the public at RIBA London Headquarters Simon Alford said the architect of the plans, Annabelle Selldorf, had been subjected to an “unwarranted comment that was critical,” and accused the eight former presidents of “reinvented and reimagined nostalgia” along the lines of that which led to the creation of the Sainsbury Pavilion.
This was a reference to King Charles, who entered 1984 as Prince of WalesDenouncing the gallery’s plans to expand into a corner of Trafalgar Square with a steel and glass building he described as “a brutal ember on the face of a beloved and elegant friend”.
his intervention Turned into years of headline-grabbing campaigns against modern architecture and prompted the National Gallery to cancel its plans and commission an extension by Venturi Scott Brown and Associates instead.
The resulting building, by Robert Venturi and his wife Dennis Scott Brown, is a postmodern work that past presidents have described as a “beautiful sequence of spaces.” Visitors enter through a dark, low-ceilinged area reminiscent of a cathedral vault, then ascend a ladder to the open, illuminated galleries that house the Renaissance collection.
But once the Sainsbury Wing was completed in 1991, the new atrium became the actual main entrance to the National Gallery, because the cascading steps of the entrance to the original portico of the main building, designed by William Wilkins in 1832, are not suitable for wheelchair users.
Director Gabriel Vinaldi wants to redesign the entrance to make it more welcoming in time for the fair’s bicentennial celebration in 2024. He commissioned Selldorf, whose plans would remove some of the mezzanine floor to cast more light on the entrance hall, softening the columns.
This would end the contrast between dark and light, amounting to a “deliberate vandalism of a Grade A classified building” according to Hugh Berman, architecture critic and newspaper editor RIBA . magazine. The eight former chiefs wrote to Westminster Council, the planning authority, saying that Sildorf’s “insensitive” plans were turning a “meticulously designed space into an airport terminal” and asking why Wilkins’ main entrance could not be modified instead.
Among some notable architects, there is an expectation that their major works will not change during their lifetime, and despite the death of Venturi in 2018, Scott Brown remains active and believes she is deeply disappointed with the plans.
Last week, the National Gallery responded. Selldorf was invited by the RIBA to deliver a keynote address, which was given by its current chair.
“I am personally sorry that she has been subjected to what I believe in some cases are a lot of unwarranted comments that are critical,” Alford said. I am aware of the message of eight former presidents whom I know and respect. But I don’t share the feelings I’ve seen her express. In fact, I feel some nostalgia for the past reinvented and reimagined, as opposed to the nostalgia that called it the very scheme we’re talking about.
“The extension of Venturi Scott Brown came out of the ashes of a competition and winner that was interfered with and unfortunately rejected. The scheme itself was not universally accepted at the time. This of course does not mean that it is not a good building. It shows how the vagaries of fashion have always fueled our thinking, and we must be on So knowledgeable. Indeed this could be said to be one of the finest buildings–their best and most ornate of their sheds. But it also means that like any good building, it can be adapted, if the need arises and I think that is the case here.”
Selldorf told the audience that she had always admired usury but added, “I would say that eight presidents who don’t like what we do is something less than we hope.”
Selldorf described her style in the Sainsbury’s Pavilion, and repeatedly emphasized that she had been thinking about how visitors would experience the building and its entrance. “Once you make your way… you find yourself in a place that is still somewhat dark and confusing. Some people think darkness and confusion is a good thing; others don’t. I belong to the latter.”
She was challenged by Edward Jones, who designed extensions for the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House with his partner Jeremy Dixon. In 1998, Dixon-Jones created a masterplan to renovate the entrance to Wilkins Arcade, which is a more natural focus point for visitors.
“It’s been on everyone’s minds for a long time,” replied Selldorf. “The symmetry at Trafalgar Square is strong. At the end of the day, I think so [the Sainsbury Wing] Not a side entrance.” Venturi Scott Brown angled the winger, she said, “with great skill and confidence” to respond to Trafalgar Square.
She has other supporters. The National Portrait Gallery backed it last Friday, along with Sir Tim Sainsbury, who said he and his brothers had agreed that alterations were needed, and if the building was “preserved in form” it would not be able to fulfill its purpose. “We support the proposed improvements and believe the proposals of the architects at Sildorf are a reasonable and sensitive response,” they said.