The Architect and the Artist
SPENCE'S competition report specified a tapestry 'designed by a great contemporary artist' stained-glass windows, and sculpture in the nave recesses. He considered these essential to create the desired effect of richness (the 'cathedral-like' effect recommended by the Harlech Commission) inside his plain, relatively small cathedral, and included them within his estimate of building costs.1 Fearing that they might in time be trimmed from the budget, Spence commissioned designs for tapestry, nave windows, and engraved glass for the west window very early, and a remarkable attempt to co-ordinate these with the design of the building followed. The choice of sculpture for the cathedral proved more difficult and was postponed until 1957.
Why was Spence so keen to include artists? In 1958, he spoke of the collaboration with the painter and the sculptor in terms of personal enjoyment, and also of the duty of the architect to provide major commissions for artists.2 But in 1951, Spence's attitude was different. As an architect known in England chiefly for exhibition work, faced with the task of building a cathedral, he looked initially to a well-established artist for help. The relationship was not therefore at this stage one of equals, nor were distinctions between the role of architect, artist, and designer blurred, as they sometimes became at the Festival of Britain.
Spence's approach recalls the late nineteenth-century interest in the unity of the arts. Lorimer's war memorial had provided one model of this attempted integration of art and architecture. The problem with such an approach was that Spence did not yet possess the experience and authority to overrule his artists, as Lorimer did when their designs threatened the integrity of his building. But it seemed preferable to simply providing an architectural shell for later embellishment--a risky policy, vulnerable to changes in taste.3 The safest way to____________________