Stop Current Sainsbury Wing Renovation Plans and Re-evaluate The National Gallery London
A importância deste abaixo-assinado
The Sainsbury Wing is in danger of being permanently scarred. It has been failed by Historic England who are charged to hold Grade 1 listed buildings, regardless of age, for the care of the nation. The authorities chartered with protecting listed buildings such as the Sainsbury Wing have bowed to short-term (and unsustainable) consumerism and commercialism while egged on by the trustees of the National Gallery who should know better and who may acknowledge the errors of their actions but all too late.
Since its opening in 1991, the Sainsbury Wing extension to The National Gallery has become an integral element of London’s landscape, a celebrated architectural landmark and a key part of British cultural heritage.
The building was awarded the highest degree of protection available in 2018 when it was listed Grade 1—equivalent to St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall, the Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace—and is one of the few post-war buildings in that group.
The Sainsbury Wing has been celebrated over three decades by millions of visitors from near and far. Its iconic design has been recognized with numerous prestigious awards and is regarded by critics and historians as a unique example of Post-Modern architecture and one of the most successful designs by the distinguished architectural firm of Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates (VSBA). The only UK work by VSBA, it is widely considered to be among Britain’s most important public buildings of the second half of the 20th century.
Unfortunately, those in charge of the management and preservation of this essential part of London’s heritage have failed to provide the protection the Sainsbury Wing rightfully deserves.
At a time when the public at large is aware of the massive carbon footprint of building construction, the superfluous fast-fashion renovation of a listed contemporary building is a waste of resources. As an institution that purports to care about its carbon footprint, performing major unnecessary renovations—that have no reported benefits to the building’s energy usage—to attract more visitors is contradictory. More recently, Michael Gove and The Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities refused permission for Marks and Spencer to raze its main shop on Oxford Street, an unlisted building. Paradoxically, a private high street department store has received more protection and regulation than a significant historic public landmark.
Current alteration plans are still progressing despite widespread criticism and alarm around the scheme. A letter signed by eight former RIBA presidents and letters from many others from around the world urged Westminster planners to refuse the planning applications. Extraordinarily, they were granted—setting an extremely dangerous precedent for this and all other Grade 1 listed buildings.
We may still be in time to avoid an historic mistake and preserve this fundamental piece of British heritage and architectural history for future generations. Therefore, we demand that the National Gallery immediately terminate the current Sainsbury Wing alteration works and undertake a profound reconsideration and revision of The National Gallery NG200 project.
There may be some justification for minor modifications to the ground floor, but these should be functional in nature to facilitate entering and exiting the building—not radical, wholesale obliteration of the original design as is proposed.
Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and their team spent six years designing and constructing this building. Denise Scott Brown explained the care and thought that was involved in its creation and why she could not support the current alteration plans in this article. An additional article can be found here.
Only 2.5% of listed buildings are listed at Grade 1. Of these there can be only a very tiny number where the original architect is still living, and crucially willing to freely engage and advise upon such significant interventions.
The photographs illustrate how the Sainsbury Wing entrance hall looked when it was first built. The current works will include the following destructive actions:
· Remove the large stone columns and replace only some of them with thin timber clad columns—losing their communication and organising potential.
· Remove the widened columns-as-wall columns altogether.
· Gather up the steel columns (modelled on the columns in the facade of the Hamptons store that originally stood on this site) and use them as a backdrop for the shop.
· Remove the darkened glass from the main stair wall and replacing it with clear. This will remove critical light protection from the artwork in the galleries, incurring the need for blinds on the gallery windows and losing that vital visual link between the galleries and outside. The subtle preparation of one’s eyesight for the paintings in their gallery environment—which commenced as one entered the building—will be eradicated.
· Cut away large areas of ceiling in the lobby, removing the awareness of the weight of the building above (the classical notion of compression and release in the entrance sequence).
· Extending the rustication from the basement level up through the mezzanine (first floor) purely as a wallpaper effect with no understanding of the hierarchies involved.
· Diminishing the restaurant on the mezzanine level and pulling it away from the facade where one can currently enjoy an intimate relationship with Trafalgar Square.
· Destroying the flexure in the wall and the free-standing column, along with the intimacy of the theatre lobby. The column is a reference to Frank Furness’ Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia—a building which Robert Venturi adored.
· Rip up the tiled flooring which imbues the space with scale, orientation, and historic references and replace with a modern layout stripped of meaning and wholly incongruous to this introductory space.
· Strip the ironwork gates of one of their steel layers to diminish their impact, scale, and strength.
· Adjust the gates on Jubilee Way to a symmetrical layout for aesthetics only rather than acknowledging the calmer zone and width required by those less ambulant as well as completely missing the connection with the passageway under the “bridge of sighs.”
· Add unnecessary lettering to the main facade at a scale and location that is disproportionate with the original design.