It does not take long for reputations to undergo fundamental reappraisals, and Richard Seifert, who died last year, is no exception. Once reviled for the sort of crass commercial architecture which gave the profession a bad name (and which partly led to the rise and rise of the conservation movement), it now turns out that he was a benign genius who was completely misunderstood. The latest newsletter of the Twentieth Century Society proves the point.
James Dunnett declares in an obituary that Seifert's work has 'something in common'with Frank Matcham, which would have amused the Colonel, if not Matcham. But Dunnett surely goes too far when he praises the architect's 'fundamental decision' to locate a tall tower at Centre Point. This was nothing to do with architecture, and all about a truly mad traffic management scheme by the GLC, which then connived with developer and site owner Harry Hyams to get the necessary rights of way, Hyams got a soft permission for Centre Point. Sure, it is a terrific building, but the location decision and the height had nothing to do with the architect. The traffic scheme was never properly implemented.
Planner Tony Tuggnutt says in the same newsletter that the Colonel was 'renowned for his legendary skills in obtaining planning consents', which he attributes to his gift for actually listening at meetings - 'a skill most architects never master. Particularly when they are in the company of planners.' Actually, it is particularly when they are in the company of Tuggnutt.