Page 8, 25th May 1962

25th May 1962
Page 8
Page 8, 25th May 1962 — Iris Conlay writes: Sir Basil Spence, architect of Coventry, was
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Locations: Coventry, Gloucester

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Iris Conlay writes: Sir Basil Spence, architect of Coventry, was

faced with the ruins of a Gothic structure which he could have demolished or preserved at will. He chose to preserve them — as relics, not to build upon them but beside them and into their heart so that their life-blood should still run through the new arteries he was planning.,

So Coventry grew — out of the past. Influenced by York Minster, Gloucester's great window and the external features of Alhi, Sir Basil worked away, mostly at night after his practice had been served, at the plans which were to win for him the competition for the building of Coventry Cathedral. The building we now see is (although it seemed very different to the opposition who voiced their opinion at the time of the competition) neither essentially novel nor revolutionary.

If we are to understand Sir Basil's work the first thing to recognise about Coventry is its evolutionary character — the way it is built on tradition, the way the modern elements in its design have been integrated into the past. First of all it is a solid building standing four square and plain outside — walk in and the contrasting effect of richness is staggering. The tapestry — green and glowing; the abstract windows, recessed in their zig-zagging walls and not apparent until one walks up towards the high altar and looks back, and then the light is deep like a new Chartres; and the high altar itself — concrete but resembling a chunk of rough granite surmounted by the cross of nails made from the hundreds lying round in the ruins — these are the memorable features of Coventry and they link up with features in the great churches of the past from those of Ravenna (mosaics instead of tapestry) backwards to those of the catacombs with !Ilea primitive stone altar tables.




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