Letter : Lack of vision beneath the `dustbin lid'

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The Independent Online
Sir: Richard Rogers was unconvincing in his defence of what you call his Greenwich dustbin lid ("Welcome to the pressure dome", 23 December), and did not sound convinced himself. He seems not really interested in the millennium event. His own agenda is his pet project for the Thames.

It is not that Lord Rogers's vision is wrong-headed. His idea for a "string of pearls", with the superb monuments of Parliament, St Paul's and the Tower strung along it, is beautiful. We should be trying to re-create the beauty Canaletto once painted, turning London's river once more into a rival of Venice or Dresden.

But his failure is no more than the failure which has characterised this fiasco since its inception. What is this Greenwich millennium monument going to be about? What ideal that we carry on into the next millennium will it seek to express? He has failed because we have not told him what we wanted.

Peter Popham condemns the autocratic hubris of many 20th-century architects, who thought that they could supply the spiritual vision and meaning lacking in their society. Such attempts never work: architects can only express for us a commonly held vision - consider the great medieval cathedrals, and the buildings of aristocratic 18th-century England.

We have got to work out those ideals for ourselves. We haven't yet even started to do so, and we have no idea what the millennium should be about. You have rightly called for such a debate to start. Throughout society our concern over our loss of direction and purpose is obvious and growing.

Perhaps Lord Rogers is right in saying that we can only plan a temporary exhibition for the year 2000, and the real building will be that which comes later. But that lasting monument, a complement to St Paul's, Barry's House of Commons and Wren's Greenwich, is something we should all be thinking about and planning. Your most serious indictment of the Greenwich fiasco so far has been a lack of such public consultation. It is time for us all to think, and to speak out.

MICHAEL QUINN

Reading, Berkshire

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