Answers, please

IT’S ODD THAT John Connor (letters, June 9) thought my question about district councillors’ support for the design of the new Chichester museum was rhetorical.

Why shouldn’t we expect our representatives to justify in public the decisions they make?

We elected them, after all.

And I remain puzzled that the portfolio holder for the arts and heritage, Nick Thomas, continues his silence, since I note he is to address local Conservatives on this very subject in September.

Some of Mr Connor’s arguments for backing the design that was chosen are unfortunately not relevant to the issue.

Yes, it was necessary to replace a building no longer fit for purpose.

Yes, there’s a need to conserve and display the hidden heritage of the city, and to show Chichester’s history to best advantage.

And yes, there were physical constraints in the site that had been earmarked for the building.

But none of that has any bearing on the character of the design to be adopted.

Mr Connor claims the museum conforms to ‘Palladian principles’, which is surprising.

The buildings of the great Renaissance architect Palladio in and around Venice and Vicenza embody order, balance, restraint, symmetry and proportion – qualities conspicuously absent in the exterior of Chichester’s new museum, whatever other qualities it may possess.

Palladio also believed architecture should derive from Roman antiquity; so I very much doubt he would have agreed with Mr Connor’s view that ‘architectural beauty is subjective’.

What a good thing people were not as obsessed in the 16th century as many are today with the notion of ‘pastiche’. Had they been, we might never have had Palladio’s masterpieces – or later English works of genius like St Paul’s Cathedral and Blenheim Palace that also echo ancient architecture.

It’s ironic that when the Pallant House gallery extension was under discussion, we were told a building meant to contain modern artworks must be ‘contemporary’ in design.

By the same logic, shouldn’t a building that will house Roman artefacts and the remains of a Roman structure echo ancient Rome in some way?

That’s another question – rhetorical this time, if you like.

As the new museum edges towards completion, I fear it doesn’t improve. Recently a large glass screen, that sad cliche of modern architecture, has been revealed on the ground floor.

As for the residential block to be built alongside to the north, I don’t believe we’ve seen a design for it yet. I expect a second horror.

Tim Hudson

Hawthorn Close, Chichester