I spent the morning in the Sainsbury Wing in preparation for a talk with Richard J. Williams, author of The Cukture Factory: Architecture and the Contemporary Art Museum.
I particularly focussed on the three things which the Gallery’s buildings committee found most contentious: the lone Corinthian column on the façade:-
It’s hard now to see this as particularly controversial and is essential to Venturi’s and Scott Brown’s experimental game-playing with the vocabulary of Wilkins which upset those who wanted him to be a more orthodox, and less mannerist, classicist.
The second is the scale of the columns in the front entrance hall, the appearance of which has been hugely improved by the removal of a lot of ephemeral and peripheral clutter:-
The third was the idea of having a neo-Palladian window at the end of the main enfilade which apparently still exists within the stonework:-
The experience made me realise how much I still admire the quality and scale of the Sainsbury architecture, which has been greatly enhanced by the quality of its COVID rehang, including more small and less well-known works, and removing – to its great benefit – the over-familiarity and predictability of the previous hang.