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Museum extension ... ... spirals into controversy

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Retired career diplomat and company director Sir Ronald Arculus, also a council member of the Kensington Society, is more scathing: He considers "this horror" to be far more suited to "a vacant lot on the South Bank."

He accuses Libeskind and the V&A's director Alan Borg of indulging in an "ego-trip." He points out that the building is a "fill-in job" and as such "totally unsuitable." It is to be built on the last available space on the site (where the boiler house is housed) but will open prominently and directly onto Exhibition Road, a wide straight thoroughfare on one side of the V&A.

"It hasn't got a straight line in it anywhere," Sir Ronald complains. "It's all angles. It doesn't conform to the lines of any of the existing buildings at all."

He points to two other London buildings, both museum extensions, and both "fill-ins" that are in postmodernist vein: American architect Robert Venturi's National Gallery wing on Trafalgar Square and James Stirling's addition at the Tate Gallery, housing the Turner Collection.

These "do not," he says, "imitate what's there, but they don't outrage what's there either. They fit in, but you can tell they are modern. And they are modern inside."

Intriguingly, one organization that chose not to oppose the V&A Spiral was The Victorian Society. Richard Holder, senior architectural adviser to the society, says "we found the proposal sufficiently interesting not to oppose it." (Though they did question some details.)

He points out that museums today "have moved slightly from the scholastic to entertainment" (which this striking new building clearly represents).

So what do the architect and his client have to say in defense of their project?

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