The Independent's obituary in 1999 of Geoffrey Powell, of Barbican architects Chamberlin Powell and Bon, made the poignant observation that, having witnessed the general disaffection with mega-projects and the end of the great post-war love affair with concrete, 'Powell lived long enough to witness the Barbican's return to favour'. Not quite long enough, however, to witness the latest twist in the Barbican's fortunes, the proposal to demolish its utility building, Milton Court (pages 12-13).
Having survived decades of ignominy, Milton Court, with its combination of mixed-use space at lower level and key-worker housing above, finds itself in sync with contemporary thinking about urbanism. But it's not to the tastes the Corporation of London, which plans to replace it with facilities for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and a residential tower.
Milton Court's residents argue that the building's spacious and partially vacant interiors would provide ample accommodation for the Guildhall. But they are missing the point. The Guildhall does not want just space per se. It wants bespoke space.
The government's politic but hasty splurge on education buildings has added credence to the belief that educational establishments deserve buildings which are purpose designed. Who cares if it's substandard and cut-price, as long as it represents the latest thinking about education and reects the client's needs? What selfrespecting institution would willingly opt for the adaptive reuse of an existing building rather than a agship building of its very own?
But trends in education are as fickle as fashions in architecture. That once-bespoke building is soon tailored and tweaked - fashion is no substitute for lasting quality. The Corporation would be rash to embark on a new building unless it can surpass the robustness, endurance and quality of the one it plans to replace.