The awards ceremony last week for the best architecture exhibits at the Royal Academy 'Summer Exhibition 2000' was enlivened by a sparky debate on whether London's architecture is thriving or failing. And one of the driving forces behind the Jubilee Line Extension (JLE), London Transport chief executive Denis Tunnicliffe, took the opportunity to hit out at 'forces of mediocrity' in the capital.
Only 24 hours after the JLE scooped the millennium building of the year award from the Royal Fine Art Commission, Tunnicliffe told award winners, developers and architects that it may be impossible to repeat the £3.5 billion project's architectural success. He attacked the press and establishment over their attitudes towards large-scale architectural projects and warned developers and architects not to attempt to repeat the scale of the JLE elsewhere in London.
'If you suggest another grand projet you will be roundly hated from the day you suggest it until the day it is complete, ' he said. 'We had to fight the forces of mediocrity and the fact that the press have all the liberty to kick you through each difficult event.'
In a further twist, Tunnicliffe even attacked the Queen for failing to officially open the line. 'Even when you finish, the Queen doesn't even damn well come to open it, ' he blasted.
Meanwhile, RIBA president Marco Goldschmied demanded that London should take greater care to counterbalance its CO 2emissions because the capital has the same size of environmental footprint as the rest of the UK in terms of waste and the creation of greenhouse gases. 'Whenever we talk of architecture we need to talk of sustainability, ' Goldschmied said. He admitted that he still preferred the 'private space' of his car to using public transport in the capital but added that he longed for this to change.
London Evening Standard columnist, Simon Jenkins argued that London is thriving and picked out Foster and Partners' bus station at the Dome in Greenwich and Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern as key successes. He also praised the rash of buildings which have been built with National Lottery money.
'New buildings are springing up on the London skyline on an almost weekly basis, ' he said. 'There may be a rush to complete them, but when the Dome is full and the Millennium Bridge stops swaying we will really have a city to be proud of.' However, he admitted that lottery cash is the 'least satisfactory way to fund grands projets', and said the Tate Modern would have been better served by demolishing the Bankside power station and erecting a new structure.
Meanwhile, CABE commissioner and AJ publisher Paul Finch attacked the capital. He joked that London risked being eclipsed by Walsall in architecture following the completion of the Walsall Art Gallery by Caruso St John and the town's new bus station by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. 'If Walsall does another good building then the RIBAwill award it a gold medal, ' he said.