Joseph Mallord William Turner was an inspired and prolific artist who also possessed the technical skill to produce paintings of a quality that has endured for more than 200 years. This ability to combine great art with brilliant technique is expected of all artists and architects. Snøhetta and Spence, the architects of the now-cancelled Turner Contemporary in Margate, are no exception; their work is both elegant and technically sound.
I was, therefore, horrified to learn that their client has allowed this delicate and distinctive design to be subjected to the coarse instrument of design and build, involving architects who had no part in its conception and no understanding or empathy for the project. I was also shocked to learn that Barry Shaw, an architect with pretensions and an erstwhile champion of Kentish architecture, has stood by while these appalling events took place.
Can we imagine a work by Turner being commissioned, before the client intervenes and imposes another artist to finish it off? What on earth was the client thinking when it had the opportunity to raise the self esteem of Margate and set an example that could transform it into an attractive and elegant place?
Perhaps someone should remind the people of Margate how the fathers of the city of Sydney messed with the building of their iconic Opera House, alienating the chosen architect and thus mangling an excellent design, all because they lacked the confidence to spend a bit more than they had expected. It was fortunate in Sydney's case that the building was built because, everyone agrees, it was money well spent.
What are the good people of Margate now supposed to think when their elected representatives are so mealy-mouthed about their town and its future prosperity and image? Or are they simply unable to see what a marvellous and exciting building they were about to have?
Julyan Wickham, Wickham van Eyck Architects