Between a Jewel and a Manifesto

written by Karin Šerman
architects Alison and Peter Smithson

 

 

The occasion of this essay may seem a bit sentimental: this summer, after the long period of 52 years, a distinguished British financial weekly The Economist will move from its long-term home, a charismatic tower located at St. James’s Street 25, to a new address. The move in itself may not have been so dramatic if it did not include the abandoning of an anthological architectural and urbanistic complex, which was named after the magazine that initiated it – The Economist Complex, a well-known realisation of Alison and Peter Smithson (1959–1964). The magazine here branded architecture, just like architecture provided the paper with an iconic status and an attractive late-modern pop aura. It was a happy and mutually beneficial marriage and it is hard to say who profited more from their long embrace. The end of their relationship is thus awaited with reasonable nostalgia and sentiment. Time will tell if the widely accepted name of the famous complex will keep on living and so keep the memory of its past client and owner, but their historical farewell definitely calls for a review of the key moments of their fruitful cohabitation.