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It is disappointing if the Gherkin is the best tall building the UK has to offer (AJ 31.08.06).

It does after all commit the cardinal architectural sin of using a weak form. A large building must have a strong form - the pyramids in Egypt are an obvious example. A successful large building can also be more articulated, as Lamb and Harman's Empire State Building shows. But it must be strong.

This well-established traditional principle has clearly been lost in the free-for-all atmosphere of current architecture. Whoever christened the lamentable Swiss Re building the 'Gherkin' pointed out the reason for its failure. For the weak shape of a gherkin only works on a small object - like, say. . . a gherkin.

If the building has appeal for some of the public, I think this is because they see it as a bit more fun than other big towers.

It is reminiscent of Claus Oldenburg's 1960s Pop Art collage, where a view of a Manhattan tower building is replaced by a giant fruit.

A lot of the other tall buildings in your issue suggest a competition to see who can come up with the daftest idea. Could we return to some serious architecture please?

Peter Kellow, RIBA, Plymouth


We write to correct one major point of inaccuracy in the review of the monograph of Rick Mather Architects (AJ 03.08.06).

The review stated that Mather's South Bank masterplan has now been discarded. This is incorrect, since the practice has maintained a continuous appointment with South Bank Centre (SBC) since winning the masterplan in 1999. The following comments have been prepared in collaboration with SBC.

Any visitors to SBC in the last year will have noticed major changes in the spaces around the Royal Festival Hall (RFH), with newly formed public spaces, cafés, restaurants, bookshops and a signicant new building alongside Hungerford Bridge allowing the major restoration of the RFH itself. Each of these is a proposal of our February 2000 masterplan, made possible by one of its major moves, to eliminate the vehicle service road that previously choked the RFH. Rick Mather Architects has worked closely with SBC, Allies and Morrison (the architect of the new extension building and RFH refurbishment), and landscape architect Gross Max, to ensure successful development on the site.

With the completion of the RFH refurbishment in summer 2007, further signicant benets to the public realm, in line with the masterplan, will also become apparent, including a major new open space, Festival Square. We are pleased to be part of the rst SBC masterplan to be implemented in the last 40 years.

Regarding future phases of the masterplan, SBC artistic director Jude Kelly announced on 29 June 2006 the centre's future artistic vision. Rick Mather Architects will now work closely with SBC to move to a nalised masterplan for the 8.5ha estate.

Rick Mather Architects


Thomas Muirhead's criticism of architecture in Nottingham in his review of Kenneth Powell's book (AJ 17.08.06) is as ungenerous as it is ill-informed. What city would not like to wind the clock back 50 years and avoid the mistakes of slum clearance? But Powell's perceptive analysis shows the context of the problems of slum housing in Nottingham dating back to the early 19th century.

Muirhead ignores the far-sighted decisions of the early 1970s to abandon road building so that inner Nottingham is not fragmented by urban motorways. Major roads have been downgraded to give pedestrian priorities and inner-city areas are successfully integrated into the city centre. Progressive planning and transport policies have resulted in an attractive and successful city centre. Virtually all new development is on browneld land and Nottingham probably has the best public transport outside London, including a new tram system. Muirhead's bleak 'urbanist' assessment of Nottingham is quaintly ideological and clearly not based on any appreciation of how regeneration actually works.

Adrian Jones, director of planning and transport, Nottingham City Council

A full version of this letter, together with a letter on the same subject by Tom Ridley-Thompson, can be seen at www. ajplus. co. uk/letters


In response to the ASFP's letter 'fire safety inaccuracies must be cleared up' (AJ 17.08.06), SAFE would like to clarify some issues that have been misinterpreted in the article 'Making the Most of Fire Resistance' (AJ Specification 06.06).

The objective of this article was to raise awareness of how best to use a structural fire-engineering approach to deliver the optimum solution for our clients, by identifying where fire protection may be reduced or eliminated when analysing the responses of steel frames subjected to elevated temperatures.

One of the contentious issues raised was whether the 'inherent' fire resistance of the structure is currently considered within prescriptive guidance. SAFE appreciates that the ASFP's recommendations take this into account, but as it provides general guidance only, it does not consider further redundancy which may exist in specific situations. By adopting a fire engineering approach on a case-by-case basis it is frequently possible to unlock this redundancy, resulting in signicant cost savings while maintaining a safe structural solution in the event of a re.

Nick Bernabé, associate director, Safe Consulting

Visit www. ajplus. co. uk/letters for this letter in full Please address letters to: The Editor, The Architects'Journal, 151 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4GB, fax 020 7505 6701, or email angela.

newton@emap. com to arrive by 10am on the Monday before publication.

The Architects' Journal reserves the right to edit letters.

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