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Hagiography does no one any favours

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Although I am credited with writing its foreword, sadly I have to agree with Stephen Greenberg's crushing rev iew of Helena Webster's Modernism without Rhetoric: Essays on the Work of Alison and Peter Smithson ('Justice not done to the Smithsons', AJ 19.3.98). A word of explanation is needed.

Like those written by A+PS themselves, the book was meant to be a slim one: simply a record of an A+PS symposium I had mounted and chaired at Bath to remember Alison and honour Peter - a flower blown on the wind allowing readers to think for themselves. In good faith I wrote a foreword and directed Webster to a publisher, but was then not properly told how the scope of the book would be changed, let alone shown a galley.

After the book was on sale I had to ask the publisher for a copy, only to find behind its careless title my foreword (altered without my consent) and Webster's expanded and partisan 'introduction', smothering the original, sometimes charming, essays.

To most of us who have lived with them the Smithsons remain an enigma, but before a critical biography is attempted, my own wish to see them provisionally honoured has been dashed. Hagiography does no one's image a favour, but since the A+PS image so intrigues the young this makes the book doubly regrettable.

How hapless to only think we know.


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