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A museum is not just a building

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That Libeskind's design for the Imperial War Museum in Manchester should go ahead without the exhibition concept developed by Bob Baxter is a tragedy (aj 28,1.99). When will the powers-that-be understand that a museum is not a building. Even an extraordinarily bold gesture of a building is still nothing more than frozen money unless energised by humanity and purpose. Libeskind himself, I am sure, understands that the possibility of pure emotional space as museum - ie, the Jewish Museum in Berlin - is a once-in-a-civilisation opportunity.

Last year Baxter gave the Hull School of Architecture the most persuasive presentation of complementarity between exhibition design and architecture imaginable. I was enthralled. I thought the project irresistible. But it seems I do not think like the establishment. The Heritage Lottery Fund obviously suffers the same corporate cultural constipation that many British institutions before it have worn as a badge of honour. This is perhaps understandable. But knowing the single-mindedness with which Libeskind pursued the Berlin project, that he could collaborate in an ephemeral and formulaic alternative to Baxter's richly eventful and intelligently programmed interior landscape I find, in all the wrong senses, disturbing.

GEOFF MATTHEWS

Hull School of Architecture

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