Read 'em and weep

November 28, 1997

Harriet Swain's puff for the new British Library (THES, November 21) is misleading.

She says "initial reaction to the interior has been positive", but quotes negative reactions from David Mellor and Prince Charles and refers to "the much-maligned red brick building"; Anyone who supposed the interior could bear comparison with the round Reading Room of the British Museum or that the exterior is anything other than an architectural atrocity has no aesthetic sense at all.

She says readers will be able to work "under swathes of natural light" and order books "at the press of a button". Neither claim is true. She says material should arrive "within half an hour"; only if it is not out-housed, as much will be.

No doubt practical facilities will be superior. But, as a wheelchair user, I found access nearly as bad as to the old British Museum.

The project is indeed "a symbol of Britain" - an avoidable but inevitable missed opportunity on a gigantic scale.

Nicolas Walter

London N1

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