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Astragal: Foster shifts Pomo stance from derision to protection

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Neo Bankside/Tate battle looks set for costly court date • Does an anti-Celtic bias haunt the Stirling Prize? 

Is Norman Foster going soft in his old age? The architect spent much of the early 1980s resisting the rise of Postmodernism, reportedly describing it as a ‘game to be played in private, by consenting adults only’

So eyebrows have been raised by his support for those fighting Snøhetta’s planned alterations to one of Postmodernism’s iconic buildings: Phillip Johnson’s 550 Madison Avenue in New York, known as the AT&T Building upon its completion.

Foster took to Instagram to rue his inability to join a protest held outside the building. 

‘I was never sympathetic to the short-lived Postmodern movement – and this building in particular,’ he wrote. ‘However it is an important part of our heritage and should be respected as such.’ 

Less surprising backing came from Terry Farrell, himself responsible for a few Postmodern buildings. He described the 1984 skyscraper as ‘a building of great importance to architectural history’.

Neo Bankside/Tate battle looks set for costly court date

Peoplelookingintoneobankside iwan baan

Peoplelookingintoneobankside iwan baan

Source: Iwan Baan

Tate Modern’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed extension has many admirers. But, as readers will recall, those living in the heavily glazed Neo Bankside apartments next door are not among them.

Last year residents in RSHP’s luxury flats complained that nosey visitors to the viewing gallery of the newly built brick-clad Tate pyramid were making their lives hell. 

One Neo Banksider told the AJ that their privacy had effectively been destroyed by the endless troupe of gallery-goers leering into their living room, often with cameras and binoculars. 

The row heated up, with the Tate refusing to do anything more than put up signs asking visitors to respect the residents’ privacy. Residents’ ire was fuelled when former chief Nick Serota dismissively suggested the moaning inhabitants simply ‘get net curtains’.

The battle soon went legal. And with neither side backing down, a trial next year is looking increasingly likely.

Incredibly, Astragal has learnt that the publicly funded Tate expects this litigation – should it go to a full court hearing as anticipated – to cost up to £500,000 in legal fees alone – though this is actually a reduction in the gallery’s initial estimate of £1 million. 

It is understood that the residents’ projected legal costs are lower but still edging into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. And both these sums exclude any damages the judge may award. 

Could this have been avoided? It has emerged that residents had earlier offered to pay, out of their own pockets, for the installation of louvres on the south and south-west section of the Tate Modern viewing platform, allowing views across London while protecting their privacy. It would have cost around £250,000, but the offer was never taken up. 

It may not be in the same financial stratosphere as Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (£88 million) which is currently on loan to the Tate, but this voyeuristic exhibition of people’s lives looks set for its own expensive denouement.

Does an anti-Celtic bias haunt the Stirling Prize? 

Celtic congress 1904

Celtic congress 1904

Source: John Wickens

Delegates at the Celtic Congress 1904, Caernarfon

One person who wasn’t celebrating Hastings Pier’s RIBA Stirling Prize victory was Scottish architect Alan Dunlop. Commenting in the AJ, he said: ‘If the Stirling Prize exists to recognise excellence in architecture and to reward the “UK’s best new building” then the City of Glasgow College should have been this year’s winner.’

And he picked up on dRMM director Alex de Rijke’s remark that ‘sometimes you don’t need a building’, countering: ‘Well, for a prize for the best new building in the UK, I think you do.’

He also suggested that the Reiach and Hall/Michael Laird-designed college was the victim of an anti-Celtic bias, adding that the only time a Scottish building had won the prize (the Holyrood parliament building) it was by a Spanish architect.

Further evidence for his theory, he claimed, was that Irish practice O’Donnell + Tuomey has been shortlisted five times but never won. This is surely not so much bias as outright cruelty as the collective body of Anglo-Saxon-favouring jurors repeatedly tease a practice with the trophy, only to snatch it away – Lucy van Pelt like – at the last moment.

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