Mansion House (3)

Having heard Peter Palumbo speak so eloquently earlier in the week about his experience of commissioning Mies van der Rohe to design a version of the Seagram building for Mansion House Square, I thought I should visit the exhibition on the subject at the RIBA.   It starts with the original scale model demonstrating how Mies planned to open up a big square in front of Lutyens’s Midland Bank by demolishing not just the triangular site occupied by the 348 leasehold properties behind Mappin and Webb, but also the Magistrates Court opposite, which was originally built in 1873 as the National Safe Deposit Company, designed by John Whichcord, and later became the Bank of New Zealand:-

This would have opened up the side view of Mansion House:-

The exhibition includes the full text of a letter sent by Gavin Stamp to the Prime Minister, protesting at a building by ‘a 99-year-old German from another age who is dead’ and a letter sent by Philip Johnson to Gavin Stamp arguing that ‘Mies’ buildings were always placed on rectangular plazas or a straight street.   In the casually irregular piece of ground in London the classical rigidity of Miesian language will look strange indeed’.   There is also a magnificent tirade sent by Berthold Lubetkin to Building Design denouncing what he describes as ‘a manipulated, contrived judgment promoted by the fashion trade devoid of sensibility, replacing emotions with sentimentality, enlightened criticism with emphatic gesticulation’.   But the exhibition has an obvious weakness in not illustrating the alternative scheme drawn up by Terry Farell, which, now that it is part of history, surely belongs as part of the narrative:-

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2 thoughts on “Mansion House (3)

  1. You are right. Terry Farrell, who in the 1980s and 90s, was such a presence in the debates about architecture in London, seems to have slipped from view. It would be constructive to look at his work again.

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