I do not particularly care that John Billingham dislikes my sketches of the Athlone Civic Centre at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (Letters, AJ 19.7.01) but I was surprised by his lack of critical analysis.
His tirade against my modest daubs, rooted firmly in the 'Daily Mail why oh why?' school of criticism, is an approach normally expunged by the rigours of architectural education. And what hubris to sound off without having visited the exhibition, which is arguably the best in years!
I do not know if the sketches should be judged as art; that has been for others rather more distinguished to decide.What I will say is that these sketches (and models, one of which is also in the show) are freeze-frames of the design process as a continuum, where concepts are rapidly explored, developed or rejected, communicating and analysing thoughts and ideas in transition at particular stages of architectural development, leading eventually to a completed building. I have no hesitation in suggesting that this is the true art of the architect!
With Athlone being in Ireland, it seems appropriate to turn to James Joyce. 'The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question. . . Truth is held by the intellect, which is appeased by the most satisfying relations of the intelligible, beauty is beheld by the imagination which is appeased by the most satisfying relations of the sensible'.
Mr Billingham might like to know the sketches were also commended by the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects!
Keith Williams, Covent Garden