The Saving of Greenwich and Other Victories You Won
Glancey, Jonathan, The Independent (London, England)
The Independent began its coverage of architecture in 1989. It had published news items and arts page features on the subject in the previous three years, but a dedicated weekly broadsheet page devoted to the mistress art was a small revolution in the way the paper, and Fleet Street, began to tackle a subject that it had often treated derisively, as if somehow the buildings we lived and worked in, and the streets and towns in which these buildings stood, were somehow unimportant.
Only this week (Letters, 8 October), Terence Edgar of Wallasey, despairing of his neighbour's "systematic ruination of a fine Arts and Crafts house", was quoting Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944; one of our greatest architects), who said, in a despairing moment, "The public doesn't really care a dog's leg about architecture."
Perhaps. But you, the readers of The Independent, have cared. Not a week has gone by since our first weekly architecture page without at least 30 letters from you landing on my desk. Your interest has been most marked when we have tried to arouse it in some of the major architectural controversies of our time. Your response to our campaign to save the Royal Naval College, Greenwich from falling into the hands of profit-hungry privateers in 1995 was extraordinary. Your support drew national attention and the media spotlight to the plight of Greenwich. Only one reader thought Greenwich was of local interest only, claiming that people in Newcastle-upon-Tyne couldn't care a can of Ace lager about a London building; everyone else knew, as if instinctively, that Greenwich (with buildings by Wren, Hawksmoor and Inigo Jones) is of international importance. The future of Greenwich is now more or less assured. But, as always with architecture, watch this space. And those buildings. You also supported our condemnation of the ineffably silly plan to flank the north side of St Paul's Cathedral (Paternoster Square) with childish, yet gigantic, offices and shops clad in Eighties-style post-modern classical fancy dress. This was a scheme that, completed in time for the millennium, would have made Britain and the City of London a laughing stock. It would have demeaned St Paul's, and proved that a love of architectural history should not be confused with building for today. We approach the millennium without a single major modern building to be proud of. Most of you are well aware of this and more readers than I ever expected championed Zaha Hadid and her radical designs for the proposed and now abandoned Cardiff Bay Opera House. The story surrounding the opera house competition was a sordid and disgraceful one that has done no favours to the cultural reputation of Cardiff nor to that of the Millennium Commission, which proved itself to be flabby-minded and unwilling to rock the boat. Even if you found Ms Hadid's design extremely challenging, you had the grace to support her. You seem able to live in old houses in country towns and to have faith in the future. …