My copy of the second volume of the publication on the work of Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones has just been delivered (I have already written about seeing an advance copy in October). It is the greatest pleasure to see it at long last in print, including the introduction to it that I wrote so long ago that I had nearly forgotten what I had written.
What I am struck in re-reading it again is how quickly the present becomes the past and that what was new is rapidly absorbed into the texture of the city and nearly as rapidly forgotten, if not properly documented. There was a moment in the late 1990s when the work of Dixon Jones was ubiquitous in reconstructing the heartland of the centre of London: their great project at the Royal Opera House; the opening up of Somerset House and its courtyard; the Ondaatje Wing at the National Portrait Gallery; a proposal for steps out into Trafalgar Square from the National Gallery; not to mention the pedestrianisation of Exhibition Road in west London. I’m really glad that the book documents and describes all this work because part of its quality was precisely its relative invisibility, much of the work inside, not drawing attention to itself, about city planning, not single monuments.
Now Stanton Williams have already reworked bits of the Royal Opera House and Jamie Fobert is reworking the NPG, as the city evolves like a grand palimpsest.