Competition design for an extension to the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, 1982
Designer: R. Seifert & Partners
© RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Ahrends Burton and Koralek's winning scheme to design an extension to the National Gallery made no concessions to William Wilkins' Greek Revival building, but instead proposed a bold, high-tech extension. A short tower, curvaceous plaza and large gridded windows fight for attention from the corner of Trafalgar Square.
After Prince Charles's speech in 1984 at the RIBA in which he referred to the design as a 'monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved and elegant friend', this proposal was refused planning permission and never realised. At around this time the conservation movement was growing and there were calls for a design more in keeping with its surroundings.
Building in such a politically and socially charged urban environment is a difficult task for architects and their patrons. The National Gallery relaunched the competition, selecting the Postmodernist Robert Venturi of Venturi, Rauch & Scott Brown as the architect in 1986 and opening the extension as the Sainsbury Wing in 1991. Externally, Venturi's design was able to complement the architecture of Trafalgar Square.