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Sour summer

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What has got into the Spectator this summer?

Normally fair-minded about contemporary architecture, the magazine has worked itself up into a rage over (of all things) Caruso St John'sWalsall Art Gallery. An editorial cites the scheme as proof positive of 'the inability of state patronage to produce anything worthwhile' and then tastefully suggests that the architecture 'is more appropriate to the commission of genocide than to a display of art, ' and that it is 'grossly, indeed laughably, disproportionate in size to that of the collection it houses'. The Spectator then goes on to complain about the spending of £5,000 of Lottery money in the same city 'for the purchase of music for formation swimming', which sounds like good fun. Alas, the sourpuss attitude to architecture was on display the previous week, when the Great One (aka Gavin Stamp) pronounced on the parliamentary buildings for Edinburgh and Cardiff. In the case of Edinburgh, 'the shape of the assembly hall seems to have been at the whim of an architect from Catalonia'. This Basil Fawlty attitude discounts the fact that the design was the winner in a major international competition. On to Wales: 'We should at least be thankful that the [Scottish] job was not simply given to Richard Rogers, as has happened in Cardiff with the new Welsh Assembly building.' There was a (published) competition for that, too. Perhaps Gavin needs a researcher. How about Mira Bar-Hillel?

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