Obituary: Sir John Summerson

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NOT ONLY was Sir John Summerson's architectural history 'intellectually superior to anything that preceded it' as Howard Colvin notes (17 November, further to the obituary by Colin McWilliam and Alan Powers, 13 November), but it was also enthrallingly readable, writes Loyd Grossman. Certainly very little of Summerson's own slight architectural output will remain to memorialise the man.

His unintentional role in the demolition of Georgian Dublin reminded me of a chat I had with him in his office at Lincoln's Inn Fields at a time when the future of Battersea Power Station was the object of speculation. Apocryphally, Summerson had played a large part in the power station's design whilst working as a young architect in the office of Giles Gilbert Scott. To me and others of my generation, the great hulk of the building was a romantic evocation of Thirties industrial might, power raised to poetry, etc etc.

So I told Sir John, who replied that he had always felt it looked like an overturned footstool (this might have been an unconscious reference to a criticism once levelled at Archer's church of St John's Smith Square) and that he supposed that one day they'd get around to tearing it down. I looked suitably horrified and said I very much hoped it would be saved. He suggested I shouldn't get too bothered about it. It would really be 'no great loss'.

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