Willliam Lethaby

How Margaret Thatcher could have saved London’s skyline

Looking around London on the eve of the millennium, it would have been difficult to think that the UK government had an adviser on architectural design. The 1990s had been a dismal decade. Yet such a body existed in the quaintly named Royal Fine Art Commission, refounded in 1924. The original Commission had been created as a way of giving Prince Albert, recently married to Queen Victoria, something to do – contriving the decorative scheme for the new Palace of Westminster. Fresco, the chosen medium, was not ideal in that damp position beside the Thames since the plaster took three years to dry; and the Duke of Wellington did not