The amber-glassed steel structure that was given the royal boot.
Jutting out of London’s financial district, nestled in an assortment of neo-classical structures lies Mansion House, van der Rohe’s would-be smoked slab of pure modernism. It’s towering and incongruous, with high reaching smoke facades set within a linear structure; an agitating proposition, in a city that was – in part – still devoted to the antiquity of both the neo-classical and the neo-gothic.
Commissioned for design by property patron Lord Peter Palumbo in 1962, the proposition came paired with the highly publicised and fervently fought demolition of Mapping & Webb which was, in no small part, a firm piece of London’s architectural identity – it’s neo-gothic vernacular the final puzzle piece within Bank’s ornate landscape. As van der Rohe designed – honing in on details as meticulous as door handles and ashtrays – people continued to contest, with the project gaining the attention of Prince Charles, an outspoken Modernist adversary and close friend of Palumbo’s, he publicly denounced the proposed design.
The 1970’s arrived with vast design development and fresh conflict; a contender had emerged for the coveted spot. British designer James Stirling was devising No. 1 Poultry street, a post-modernist jumble of pastel blocks, it was considerably less afflicting on London’s skyline, and in the mid-1980’s was given the go ahead, leaving van der Rohe’s 20-year-strong design behind – ash-tray and all.
Explore the topic of these conflicting schemes further in the upcoming RIBA exhibition titled ‘Mies van der Rohe and James Stirling: Circling the Square’ on show at The Architecture Gallery, RIBA, Portland Place from March 8 2017.
8 March 2017 – 25 June 2017
Monday – Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
Tuesdays 10 am to 8 pm
The Architecture Gallery
RIBA, 66 Portland Place