The Cathedral Completed, 1960-1962
THE summer of 1960 marked a watershed in the construction of the cathedral. The roofing of the nave--a shell concrete structure stiffened with ribs and ties--had begun. Only after completion could the nave columns, each consisting of three precast sections, be hoisted into place and the network of beams supporting the slatted timber canopy be cast in situ. Meanwhile, in line with the tradition of honouring an architect as his cathedral neared completion, Spence was awarded a KBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 1960.1 Epstein's figure of St Michael, brought to Coventry in May, was ceremonially unveiled on 24 June. With this in place, Spence was now in a position to make adjustments to the design of the porch and the chapels.
The side canopies of the porch, redesigned in 1958 as robust shapes whose profiles cast crisp shadows and helped to define the character of the porch and steps as the main approach to the cathedral, were now considered in more detail.2 A vivid little sketch made in April 1960 shows the deeply shadowed porch standing out strongly against the sheer stone flank of the cathedral, acting as a powerful magnet to draw visitors in (Plate 155). Given that the City Council planned to demolish the row of dilapidated houses opposite the cathedral to make way for a complex of educational buildings set back from the street, the creation of a grand approach to the cathedral on this axis could now be considered. Revisions to the porch vaults suggest a new concern to confer dignity on this area, and to underline its function as a place for ceremony and celebration; they may also have been influenced by Provost Williams's interest in staging dramatic productions in and around the cathedral.____________________