Letter: Blueprint for controversy

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The Independent Online
Sir: My gratitude to Jonathan Glancey for drawing attention to the current proposals for altering the house by Mendelsohn and Chermayeff in Old Church Street, Chelsea (10 February) does not extend to his unflattering and journalistic account of Serge Chermayeff's early career. His use of the word 'functionalist' to describe both Mendelsohn and Foster reverts to the jargon of the Twenties and further confuses the issue.

Your readers would have been helped to make up their own minds if Sir Norman Foster's designs had been illustrated. Among eminent architects who have seen the proposals, Sir Denys Lasdun has supported our objection to putting new windows into the garden elevations and Lord Esher has written that it would be 'a terrible pity' to add glass wings.

One need only look at the neighbouring house in Old Church Street, designed by Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry at the same time as the Cohen house, and subsequently altered by two Royal Academician architects, both former assistants of Maxwell Fry, to see that creative intervention in classics of the modern movement is a dangerous game.

Yours faithfully,


Hon. Secretary

The Twentieth Century Society

London, SW4

10 February