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Brunswick Centre listing inflames new war of words

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has thrown a spanner in the works of Patrick Hodgkinson's plans to add around £20 million of refurbishments to his own Brunswick Centre - by listing it Grade II.But in the aftermath of the decision, Brunswick developer Allied London has hit out at the Twentieth Century Society for making 'hollow' criticisms of Hodgkinson's plans and refusing to meet up to discuss the proposals.

Arts minister Alan Howarth last week said the 1960s shopping and living complex in Bloomsbury would be joining the list because it was an 'innovative and significant megastructure'. 'It was influential in pioneering low-rise, high-density housing and its echo can be found in much subsequent building, ' he said.

The Twentieth Century Society said it was 'delighted' at the decision, even though it and English Heritage, another early critic of Hodgkinson's plans, had proposed that the seminal building receive the greater protection of a Grade II*-listing. 'Hodgkinson's scheme will have to be re-addressed, ' said casework officer Jo Haire.'It's our policy to consult the original architect but they don't always present the best solution. And in this case we didn't feel they had.'

The society objected to Hodgkinson's planned changes to his building for client Allied London, including a new 3500m 2anchor store, new buildings at the entrances facing Bernard Street and Brunswick Square, planting, canopies, entrances, signage, lighting and new cultural spaces, as well as plans to paint the building's exposed concrete.

'We favour a robust solution to reflect the character and integrity of the building, ' added Haire. 'We want to work with the building and we felt Hodgkinson's scheme compromised its character.'

But Hodgkinson, who railed against the conservation group's initial comments in February (AJ 3.2.00) said its latest comments were 'embarrassing'. 'They're a historian's view, not an architect's, ' he said. 'And we have a war going on between architects and historians.'

And Allied London chief executive Mike Ingall told the AJ he has offered 'endless meetings' to the Twentieth Century Society to discuss its criticisms, only to be told it is 'not its policy' to meet with developers. Ingall said the important body to please in the case was English Heritage, with which he was having 'encouraging' talks about altering the facades of new buildings proposed when going for listed building consent. 'English Heritage is in favour of regeneration and our proposals are modern and contemporary and suit the building, ' he said.'We can live with the listing and ought to be proud that we own a listed building.'

Ingall said he will be retaining architect Patrick Hodgkinson, supported by Levitt Bernstein, to 'finish' the Brunswick Centre with a view to emulating 'vibrant' areas such as Marylebone High Street, Chiswick High Road and Hampstead.Work should start 'in the first half of next year'.

Howarth said the listing of Grade II meant that proposals to develop or change the structure are given 'very careful consideration and, if agreed by the local planning authority, are executed in a manner sympathetic to the original design'.

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