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Stage setting

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astragal

Appreciative obituaries of Joan Littlewood, who has died at the splendid age of 87, naturally concentrated on her theatrical achievements. But her contribution to the world of architecture should certainly be noted. For it was she, along with her architect Cedric Price, who inspired the idea of a 'Fun Palace' at Stratford in east London, home of many of Littlewood's triumphs. The building, which uncannily prefigures notable High-Tech projects such as the Pompidou Centre, was envisaged as a flexible mixed-use space capable of adaptation for almost any purpose.The project was in deadly earnest, and inspired critical acclaim even though in the end it was not built.

Reyner Banham put it as well as anyone: 'Seven nights of the week it will probably look like nothing on earth from the outside: the kit of service towers, lifting gantries and building components exist solely to produce the kind of interior environments that are necessary and fitting to whatever is going on.'

Joan remained a lifelong friend of Price, and was a regular attender at his office parties, accompanied by her genial assistant Peter Rankin.

She was one of the few people capable of giving Price a thorough telling-off - out of affection.

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