This article was originally published on Common Edge.
Despite its dazzling collection of masterpieces, London’s National Gallery has been cursed with a series of ill-advised architectural schemes over its two-century existence. Only once have its leaders made a truly inspired and visionary choice: in the mid-1980s, the gallery held a competition, won by Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown (VRSB) of Philadelphia, to build a special collections building.
The addition was constructed from 1988 to 1991, using funds donated by the Sainsbury family as a gift to the nation and was immediately hailed as one of the finest buildings of its type erected in the 20th century. It has remained popular with Londoners and has served well as an expansion of William Wilkins’s undistinguished classical building ever since. Experts on the work of Robert Venturi, John Rauch, and Denise Scott Brown consider it one of their masterpieces. Apparently, the National Gallery has a different opinion.