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Style and Auhenticity - TrustNews Mar 18

Robert Adam responds to Kate Mackintosh‘s letter in December's TrustNews I am pleased to see that Kate Macintosh has chosen to extend the debate over style and authenticity. This is an important subject for the Trust as well as the people of Winchester.

I don’t want to repeat anything that has been said but Kate is not entirely accurate in her interpretation of what I wrote.

I agree that high-style architecture has been international for some time. The majority of every-day or vernacular architecture was, however, by definition local. International influences were also often localised, such as the adaptation of the Palladian villa to the English country house. One way or the other, what emerged over time was something locally distinctive to each town or city and this makes up its architectural tradition.

I don't there’s much to be gained by an art-historical argument about when the Modern Movement began or opinions on the British political system. The fact is that the major impact of the Modern Movement post-dates the Second World War and the House of Commons was just an example of tradition; I could have chosen Christmas or weddings.

I’m afraid that Kate misrepresents my recommendation and caricatures it. I am simply stating that we identify our places and ourselves with our traditions and to most people these are real or visible things. l am not sure why learning and innovation alone make up a “true tradition”. Traditions change, but for those who take them as their identity it is important that their provenance can be recognised. I am not arguing for one style or philosophy. I was clear that Modern Movement buildings can be good in their own right and that they have a place in most cities. My proposition was that if, as Kate seems to be suggesting, the Modern Movement is seen as the only valid style and this is enforced by some expert group, in time the identity of the city will be fatally eroded.

This is a very important issue for Winchester and it is clear that opinion is divided. I suggest that the Trust hold an open and public debate on the subject with voting before and after, so that opinions can be given full rein and the public mood divined. This is, after all, so much more important than a difference of opinion between professionals.

Robert Adams