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Children's centre to be first project in England for Gehry

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Frank Gehry, who has been in London taking part in the King Alfred competition in Brighton and Hove, has agreed to design a children's arts centre in Southwark, south London. The centre is Gehry's first confirmed project in England, pending a decision on the Brighton competition, and only his second in the UK. The first, his Maggie's Centre in Dundee, will be completed this spring.

The project, on the Potters Field site next to Foster's Greater London Authority headquarters building, was conceived by Simon Elliot of Innovision Media as a children's cultural quarter.

Plans include a 600- to 800-bed children's hotel, a 'children's palace of the imagination', a study centre for performing arts and a new public park with an open air amphitheatre facing the River Thames. It will complement plans for the nearby Unicorn Children's Centre by Keith Williams Architects.

The site is owned by Berkeley Homes, which has plans for an Ian Ritchie Architects-designed residential tower cluster. However, Elliot - with the backing of Southwark council, which has a legal interest in the land - is in negotiations with Berkeley that could result in the children's centre being placed largely underground.

Gehry stressed the scheme was still in the very early stages, but he said he had agreed to the project because it was 'so idealistic and beautiful'.

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