June 30, 2009

Westminster Abbey Competition for the Design of a New "Corona"

The London Times reports on a (possibly) exciting competion to complete Westminster Abbey's long unfinished crossing spire. The Abbey, site of coronations and royal weddings for nearly a millenia, has over time been added upon and improved by the likes of Sir Chrisopher Wren and George Gilbert Scott. However, the spires and towers proposed by numerous architects for the crossing have never been built. The crossing now is to be surmounted by a "corona" to mark the 75th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and likely to celebrate the crowning of the Prince of Wales as King Charles III.

The Corona would replace the small pyrimidial crossing cap seen today.

Now since Prince Charles is likely to be at least personally interested in this project, one has to wonder who will be chosen to submit the design and what will the design be like? Will the Royal Institute of British Architects reign supreme over this project and demand a modernist scheme? Will the nonsensical preservationist criteria of designing in a markedly different style (meaning exclusively modern) be trotted out?

Or will sanity be preserved and the design be classical/gothic and be more sympathetic to the historic church? Given the amount of vitriol and venom recently spewed in the direction of the Prince for his offering of an opinion on the Chelsea Barracks plan, one is likely to see the level of attack on classical architecture and Prince himself to reach a fevered pitch. If a classical scheme by Quinlan Terry is even part of the discussion, the charges of royal interference in the benighted practice of architecture (as if patrons don't have a choice), and how Prince Charles is singlehandedly trying to destroy architecture.
Could a design such as this top the famous royal church?

However I think HRH will yet again appeal to the common sense of beauty and tradition in the face of such barbs, and will yet again be backed not by the popularity of the architectural elite, but of his people. The Abbey has yet to unveil the designs for the corona, so there is still reason to hope that a classical design will be chosen, far better hope than we might have here in the US in a similar situation. The tide is changing in England, and as I've said before, it is in no small part due to the Prince's good opinion and taste for the traditional and classical beauty found still in Britain.

June 25, 2009

National Civic Arts Society Unviels "Building Our Nation's Capital"

Last night in Georgetown, the National Civic Art Society premiered its new documentary film "The Vision of the Nation's Capital," to great acclaim. The video, documenting the great classical vision of the Capital envisioned by L'Enfant and George Washington, was warmly received by the attendees. This vision, reborn in the McMillan Commission in 1901, subsequently sullied by tasteless and ill planned modernist buildings throughout city, is the focus of the NCAS' mission.

The event was just the beginning of a movement toward reinvigorating and restoring this vision, that all can appreciate. Of note was the attendance and support of Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee and the former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bruce Cole.

Congressman Cooper expressed his gratitude for being invited to the event and had some short remarks after the video's premiere. He lamented the cold and heartless office buildings so many people work in throughout the city and expressed too his admiration for the classical buildings pointed out in the video as "places people like to work."

Certainly I hope that this is just the beginning of a larger movement to realizing that the classical vision of Washington can and should be built, and that Americans at large will find a city more beautiful than ever before.
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