To whom it may concern at SMH,
I know that this is long but it is about time support letters for Madigan were printed about this important issue. Several of mine have been rebuffed recently.
Elizabeth Farrelly was clever and accurate to identify the “limp wristed” (SMH 9/10/10) aspects of the new entrance design for the NGA, and then go on to applaud the triumph of the new art in the overdue extension. It is equally clever to applaud Colin Madigan’s High Court building as if the “cantankerous” old Madigan should be grateful despite the process of design, he was largely excluded from, on his beloved NGA. Madigan always embraced the idea of transformation of his gallery by another architect. He simply wanted for that process to understand the DNA within it and to have genuine dialogue with the new designers. As someone who has supported Col through the last 9 years, I know that this never really happened or was cleverly disguised through a labyrinth of politics. Nevertheless he continued to work, while suffering cancer, to draw and write daily to his non collaborators with a wellspring of creativity and wit. The gallery did need the transformation, as it needed also to understand what bad planning and renovations had done to the workings of the building. The new architects could have had their cake and eaten it if they had been open and generous. What a lost opportunity. The new work pretends to imitate but misses the point. As Australia’s Louis Kahn, I guess Madigan had to suffer as Kahn did at the hands of the Philadelphia mayor and others. Similarly Utzon and Griffin suffered. But the truth will out. Within Madigan’s failure lies a shining jewel. We have compiled the drawings and texts of this period and will publish a book, which doesn’t wallow in the absurdity of the process he endured, but which illuminates his genius. The master at his kitchen table revealing the way in which he worked and the legacy of a modernism with meaning.
The other elephant in the room remains the non-completion of Harry Howard’s masterpiece of landscape architecture surrounding the NGA in the form of the missing “Winter Garden”. We got our extraordinary James Turrell but not the garden. What does this say about us still?
Professor Richard Goodwin