LETTER:Stranded statues

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The Independent Online
From Mr David Williams

Sir: While agreeing with the comments on the Strand ("How the Strand could be grand", 5 June) I feel, as the architect for the recent refurbishment of Zimbabwe House, that I must defend the British Medical Association from accusations of defacing the Epstein sculptures on the facade of 429 Strand.

In fact, the BMA was their staunch defender when the building's facade was unveiled in 1908, and it was not until 1937 that the new owners, the government of Southern Rhodesia (who thought they did not set the right tone for a government building) found an excuse to remove them when, it is said, in taking down bunting put up to celebrate King George VI's coronation, parts of the sculptures broke off, allowing chisels to be applied to these "unsafe" works.

The passions that these statues still arouse can be judged from the representations received when the recent refurbishment was proposed, not only from those who wanted restoration, but even from those who feared just such action. As the Rhodesians would not allow casts of the figures to be taken prior to their attack, restoration would have been very difficult and beyond the project's budget. Therefore, work was limited to cleaning and some preservation work to minimise any further deterioration, leaving the question of restoration to future generations.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID WILLIAMS

CBDW Architecture

Whitchurch,

Hampshire

5 May

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