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Seifert, Richard

Seifert, Richard ( Robin, originally Rubin) (1910–2001). British architect. He achieved notoriety for his many huge developments, many of which were realized through his mastery of the law relating to planning and building. His most famous tower-block is Centre Point, junction of Tottenham Court Road and New Oxford Street, London (1959–66), which attempted to make the building-type more interesting by means of the cruciform precast-concrete elements (with drooping arms) of the façades, creating straight verticals but repetitive horizontal zig-zags at every floor-level. This rather restless frame eliminated the need for scaffolding during construction. His National Westminster Tower, Old Broad Street, City of London (1970–81), was, at the time, one of the tallest buildings in Europe, with a plan derived from the Bank's logo. Other works by him include the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington (1960–5); the Britannia Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London (1967–9); the Park Tower Hotel, Knightsbridge (1973); the somewhat aggressive London Forum Hotel, Cromwell Road (1971–2); Space House, just off Kingsway (1964–8—featuring a circular block with cruciform precast concrete members similar to those of Centre Point, the whole supported on splayed stilts); and the Office Development in the forecourt to Euston Street (1974–8—which demonstrates there would have been plenty of room to retain the noble Greek Doric propylaeum by Hardwick, demolished 1960–1 despite widespread protest), all in London. It used to be claimed that Seifert had made a greater impression on the London skyline than any architect since Wren. His architecture, however, was somewhat brash, and it received little recognition where it counted, although the RIBA Heinz Gallery mounted an exhibition of his work in 1984, and he was rarely out of the public prints in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Centre Point, which became an object of derision because it was seen as a symbol of commercial exploitation and greed (it lay empty until 1975, gaining in value all the time), eventually was listed as being of architectural and historic interest. Pevsner, in 1973, thought its only merit was that it looked slim from the north and south, but he regarded the zig-zag horizontals as ‘coarse in the extreme’ and asked of it ‘who would want such a building as its image?’ Considering that Seifert always claimed his work was profoundly influenced by Gropius, Pevsner's hero, the latter's comments are interesting, but Seifert also admitted to other influences, notably Le Corbusier, Nervi, Niemeyer, and Breuer. Seifert left his mark on many places, including the City of London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester, and Watford. Taking his cue from successful transatlantic architects, he built up one of the largest practices of the period.

Bibliography

Bradley & and Pevsner (1997);
Kalman (1980, 1994);
Germann& and Sturgis ;
The Times (27 Oct. 2001), 27;
personal knowledge

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