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The continuing myth of Albemarle Street


James Dunnett performs a useful role as self-appointed hagiographer to Erno Goldfinger, but now that Erno has passed into history, he really ought not to allow his devotion to the Blessed Memory to distort the truth. But perhaps that is what hagiographers are for.

As Dunnett says, there has been considerable correspondence on this subject; I wrote (aj 5.12.90) describing how Erno had amused himself by drawing thick diagonal lines on the drawings of various jobs in the office, and discovered that Albemarle Street seemed to fit (but very approximately) the Golden Section proportion. It was a fashionable preoccupation at the time. The myth grew from there.

In a letter (aj 11.4.96) arising from Dunnett's article in aj 28.3.96, I demonstrated exhaustively that the dimensions, and hence the proportions, were derived from Erno's understanding of British imperial standard measures, and that the proportions bore little resemblance to either the Golden Section or the square root of rectangle. As I had previously said (aj 16.1.91), had Erno set out to design the building in accordance with the Golden Section or whatever, he would have done so rigorously and accurately, not approximately an arbitrarily.

Now Dunnett tells us that it wasn't the Golden Section and it wasn't the square root of rectangle, but a 1:1.5 rectangle; he produces no evidence to support this but some rather inaccurate dimension - for example, the 'lower rectangle' is not 48' 1 1/2' x 31' 6 1/2' but 49' 2 1/2' x 31' 10 1/2'.

He also cites J M Richards as claiming that Albermarle Street was based on the Golden Section, whereas Richards was highly sceptical (as was Lewis Mumford) - even the quotation form Richards' 1957 article given by Dunnett in his article in aj 28.3.96 demonstrates this.

I have no wish to engage in an interminable hair-splitting quasi-theological disputation on this or any subject; it is particularly difficult to engage in any reasonable debate with someone who constantly shifts his ground.

Whether or not James Dunnett chooses to believe my account of this laughable canard does not matter to me one jot, but let me remind him and readers that I was there when it took place, as were John Duncan, Tony Short and one or two others. James Dunnett was not.


Llandysul, Dyfed

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