Bill Price has happy childhood memories of discovering structural design at Coventry cathedral. But the London Research Institute? He can’t even bear to look at it
Coventry cathedral had a direct influence on my career path. When I was a lad I was mesmerised by a TV programme about how it was constructed, so we took a family trip down there. I will always remember looking at the columns connected to this amazing lattice roof and thinking, for the first time, about the way a structure had been assembled.
The most striking feature of the cathedral is the columns. Church columns are usually fat but these are very slender and actually seem to hang from the roof rather than being supported from the base.
The cathedral itself is a simple and elegant structure, made out of stone rather than concrete, and has lasted really well. The building was controversial when it opened in 1962 and I wouldn’t say it is particularly beautiful. But it is monumental. It is a building that joins up architecture and engineering in a way that re-enforced what I wanted to be.
For me, the London Research Institute in Lincoln’s Inn Fields is a tragedy in what otherwise would be a very elegant London square. The headquarters of Cancer Research UK is not a bad building in a way – it is just in the wrong place. The large facade with glass and brick panels is totally out of keeping with neighbouring buildings, including the Royal College of Surgeons, which has an incredibly grand design.
The building has been extended a couple of times in a slightly grim way since the sixties and I find it a sad place. It has got to the point where I’m not prepared to cycle past it on my way from the office to Waterloo station; I have to go a different way.
Bill Price is a director of WSP.