Mansion House (1)

I have just been to an amazing talk in which Lord Palumbo reminisced about the long experience of trying to get a building by Mies van der Rohe constructed in the heart of the city of London:  how he had been inspired by his mother who was passionately interested in contemporary classical music;  and by a teacher, Oliver van Oss (he did not say it was Eton), who introduced his pupils on Sunday mornings to the work of single artists – Jan van Eyck and Barnett Newman, Palladio and Mies van der Rohe.   After working for Hambro’s and Cluttons (he left out the fact that he was at Oxford), he went to work for his father, a property developer, and bought a single building in Bucklersbury.   This led him to travel to Chicago in 1962 to commission a building by Mies van der Rohe, a shy man who normally never got up before lunch, telling him that there was no chance that the building would be built for at least 25 years.   So, it was always going to be posthumous.   The project got preliminary planning permission in May 1969.   It was then the subject of a famous, or infamous, planning inquiry, in 1984 in which the ghost of Mies, supported by John Summerson, battled against the massed ranks of the conservationists.   Patrick Jenkin as Secretary of State rejected the scheme on the grounds that it was bad mannered – out-of-scale with its surroundings and built of bronze.


3 thoughts on “Mansion House (1)

  1. It was indeed a desperate and prolonged battle, out of which Patrick Jenkin came very badly, but a good building was designed and built. It’s easy to forget how contemporary architecture was cold-shouldered by Mrs Thatcher’s Government. Peter Palumbo was heroic and tenacious in pushing this through.

    A footnote: Oliver van Oss (OVO) was an exceptional Housemaster at Eton, who later became Vice-Provost, I think. A modern linguist and scholar with real intellectual breadth.

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