Britons are now fond of nation's `eyesores'
t ARCHITECTURE OF THE CENTURY Modern buildings originally dismissed as unsightly have won a place in people's hearts, opinion poll reveals
Monday 15 November 1999
Coventry Cathedral, a strikingly modernist creation for which the architect Sir Basil Spence was heavily criticised, has been named the country's best-loved building of the past100 years. Second favourite is Liverpool's concrete Roman Catholic cathedral, Christ the King, which also aroused controversy when it was completed in 1967.
Some 3,500 people nominated a total of 474 buildings in the British Building of the Century Poll, opened by English Heritage and Channel 4 in June.
Even the Royal National Theatre and Trellick Towers in London, both exposed concrete Brutalist structures, featured in the top 50 most-loved post- 1900 buildings.
Erich Mendelsohn's De la Warr Pavilion, in Bexhill, East Sussex, a bizarre monument to the Thirties Bauhaus trend, pushed the Tate Gallery in St Ives into fourth place. More recent constructions in the top 50 included Sir Colin St John Wilson's British Library, the Bluewater shopping complex inKent, and the Millennium Dome in Greenwich. Stansted Airport, designed by Lord Foster of Thames Bank, was 11th on the list, Canary Wharf was joint 15th and the Channel Tunnel was joint 34th.
Sir Jocelyn Stevens, the chairman of English Heritage, said the poll "underlines a breadth of taste that dispels the old view that we are a bland and conservative people".
He added: "Everything is here, from the fun of the Festival of Britain through Modernism to the Brutalism of the Sixties and Seventies. It should embolden us yet further to resist the pedestrian in architectural design, especially in the public domain."
Coventry Cathedral, the great symbol of post-war revival, was easily the favourite, gaining 262 votes. Sir Basil got his inspiration for the designwhile under the influence of an anaesthetic that he had been given for toothache. He saw an image of zigzagging walls and an altar flooded with gold light.
More than half the buildings featured in the top 50 are listed as being of special architectural or historic interest. Among these are early-century classics such as Sir Edwin Lutyens's Castle Drogo, in Devon, and Broadcasting House.
Of the post-war favourites, Coventry and Liverpool cathedrals, the Royal Festival Hall and Theatre, the Willis Faber Building at Ipswich, the Civic Centre at Newcastle upon Tyne, and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, are all listed.
Martin Cherry, the director of programmes at English Heritage, said the public had only recently warmed to modern architecture.
He said that in the late Eighties, only 17 of the 70 post-war buildings recommended to ministers for listing by English Heritage were approved.Now more than 90 per cent are.
Mr Cherry said: "What this poll shows is that there is a great deal more public acceptance of modern architects than perhaps they have been given credit for."
Voted best-loved building of the past 100 years
Designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd; opened in 1967
DE LA WARR
Designed by Erich Mendelsohn in 1933
Much acclaimed gallery that opened in 1993
CASTLE DROGO, DEVON
Sir Edwin Lutyens built this granite building between 1911 and 1930
ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL
First envisaged in 1948 as a legacy of the 1951 Festival of Britain
Colin St John Wilson designed this 1998 building at St Pancras
Richard Rogers' distinctive City feature, opened in 1986
1933 west London factory
BATTERSEA POWER STATION, LONDON
Designed by Sir Giles Scott and opened in 1937
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