LETTER :Military-style modern buildings

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The Independent Online
From Mr Graham Whettam

Sir: Jonathan Glancey hardly needed to go across the Channel to find the military influences on post-1945 architecture in England ("Concrete proof of Rommel's invasion", 3 May). On the opposite page you aptly printed a photograph of the Festival Hall, whose curved roof reflects so strongly that of many wartime aircraft hangars ("Who gets what? Why?") Even today above Wroughton in Wiltshire can be seen the curves of such buildings, the roofs being originally coloured green and then covered with camouflage- netting. Some were even turfed over.

The Festival Hall was completed in 1951, the present oblong facade being added much later. The hangars were built 10 or so years earlier, and the body below the roof was sometimes buried in a mound or hillside.

As a boy I lived with the hilltop silhouettes of such hangars, and when I first saw the Festival Hall this influence - even if unconscious - was obvious.

As for the concrete walls of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery, these surely reflected the building methods used in military pill-boxes and look-out posts around our coasts. Even today there is an intact concrete pill-box at the eastern point of Mersea Island, downstream from Colchester.

Twenty years ago there were several other buildings along the cliffs a mile or so to the west, but now lost to the sea. When the Queen Elizabeth Hall was opened, its bare grey concrete walls showed the grain, knots and joins in the wooden flats between which the concrete was poured. It was only later that panels were added to disguise this architectural crudeness.

We should not blame Rommel for such a monstrosity as the Hayward Gallery, but replace it with something better. Surely not too much to ask.

Yours sincerely,


Woolaston, Gloucestershire

3 May