The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Broadgate Listing—Who will make the decision? and other stories….

Good to see plenty of coverage of C20 issues in the architectural press this week. Building Design reports that Governemnt Minister John Penrose has ruled himself out of making the decision about listing Broadgate because his wife Dido Harding is a non-executive director at British Land (the developer that wants to knock down part of the development) and his collegue Ed Vaizey says his “close personal friendship“ with Stuart Lipton (the original developer who is pressing for listing) means he can’t do it either. So it’s down to thier boss Jeremy Hunt to make his mind up for DCMS.

Apparently I missed out on the chance to win a Lego Farnsworth House kit….BD was offering it as a prize to readers who filled out a survey for them…. I’ve just investigated what other buildings you can get—there is a Guggenhiem Museum and a Fallingwater kit –strangley Fallingwater is much the most expensive (at  £74.99)  Gugenheim seems singularly un-sduited to lego.  We had hoped to have a “make your favourite British C20th building in lego” stand at the  Vintage Festival last year….but we lacked the expertise…and enough blocks…butthe idea  begs the question what would be the best choices.  (actually they all look pretty awful)
Architects’Journal reports Michael Wilford’s concerns about the long term future of the Sackler at Harvard —the 1985 post modern museum building by Stirling and Wilford. Apparently its going to be “repurposed”, rather than demolished, and “any new uses will be respectful of the original Stirling design”.  Of course we have heard that sort of thing before, and then been faced with proposals for complete transformation of a building, so we will do as asked and express our concerns to Harvard asap.  he is a British architect, so it’s not that far off our core remit.
I’m irritated by Peter Stewart’s letter to the AJ about “conservation creep”, by which he means the protection of “mediocre” recent buildings. He says that this means that the only sites left for large scale development in London are “those that have 1960s buildings on them that no one loves”. What’s my problem with this? well…  1) I don’t think that Broadgate (context for this letter), or anything else we’ve backed is “mediocre”, 2) there are plenty of people who love 60s buildings, and 3) he reiterates the old easy reason to trash the listing process, namely that it is “a perverse disincentive to commissioning good commercial architecture”.  ie if anything good might get listed then cany developers will just build rubbish.  Sad to hear this coming from someone who is a member of English Heritage’s London Advisory Committee, chair of the Planning Group at the RIBA, and ex Director of the design review programmed at CABE.

BD has a review by Joseph Rykwert of the new on line catalogue of Soane Drawings (see . Given Soane’s major influence on many C20 architects, this is very relevant to us, and the review cites Gillian Darley’s suggestion that Giles Gilbert Scott took Soane’s design for his own tomb as inspiration for the shallow dome of his telephone boxes. Rykwert says “Scott’s device , reproduced thousandfold throughout the country , was a stealthy tribute to one of England’s really great architects.” The website is very well done—with text by Jill Lever and good images, all paid for by Heritage Lottery Fund.
A review of a new book on Sarah Wigglesworth’s Straw Bale House in AJ reminds me that when Sarah was helping us on Robin Hood Gardens she generously offered a member trip to see this best known of her own projects to date. We will try and arrange that asap. Isabel Allen sees the book as “an essay on collaboration” and by use of multiple authors, a welcome “critique of publishing culture” . Am looking forward to reading it.
Finally, Pilotii’s “Nooks and Corners column in Private Eye draws attention to the plans to relocate Lutyens’ cenotaph in St Peter’s Square Manchester, to make way for trams, and notes our opposition. Thanks very much!


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