LETTER: Degradation of the Thames

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The Independent Online
From Mr Owen Luder

Sir: Short of being asked for our views on possible future uses for Durham Cathedral, I can think of few things quite as degrading to the architectural culture of Great Britain as a West-End estate agent hawking round the Royal Naval College.

Greenwich hosts a collection of some of our most beautiful buildings, designed by some of the most talented architects in history. They were the product of a vibrant cultural and political life.

One simply has to travel along the Thames to appreciate that our political culture now views important buildings as a source of embarrassment rather than pride. County Hall is to be, possibly, a hotel or, possibly, a conference centre or, possibly, an aquarium, or possibly God knows what.

The much-loved Battersea power station, though nothing like as sublime as Greenwich, was to be stripped of its dignity to become a theme park - instead, it has been stripped of its roof to become a monument to the neglect of the public estate.

In these circumstances, it is difficult to feel anything other than cynicism towards a glossy estate agent's brochure purporting to be a canvassing of interest among educational and heritage establishments (one would imagine a neatly typed letter would have served as well).

Architecture has famously been described as being too important to be left to architects. History shows us that the care of government buildings is far too important to be left to politicians. It is the scrutiny of the public, rather than the promise of politicians, that will secure the future of the Royal Naval College.

Yours sincerely,

Owen Luder

President

Royal Institute of British

Architects

London, W1

14 September

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