Closure of Clissold Leisure Centre fails to explain question of blame
There are many unanswered questions about the Stephen Hodderdesigned Clissold Leisure Centre in London's Stoke Newington. Why did it take so long to build? Why did it cost so much? Why has it had to close down? When, if ever, will it open again? And, crucially, how could Hodder have got it so wrong?
Closed since last summer, the pool has metamorphosed from a symbol of civic pride to a monument to architectural ineptitude. But Hodder's decision to launch a costly investigation into the building's problems suggests that he, for one, feels that he is being made to bear an unreasonable burden of blame, and the list of defects suggests that this may well be the case. True, there are a worrying number of constructionrelated defects. But it is unclear how many of these could be classified as snagging issues, which could have been rectified had relations between architect and client not irrevocably broken down. Other items on the list suggest the use of hindsight to retrospectively rewrite the brief. The fact that the water-slide interferes with the safe use of the spa, or that the fall to the water is too steep for toddlers, or that the female changing rooms have inadequate privacy, were presumably deemed acceptable to the (supposedly professional) client at the time.A grudging acknowledgement that at least part of the blame lies with the client is implicit in a statement prominently displayed on its public website: 'The centre was built in the 1990s when the council was under no overall political control. This is a problem that has been inherited by the current administration and the council is doing everything it can to sort it out.'
Not that the present administration is necessarily above reproach.Still other entries on the defected list may simply be attributed to poor management. Can Hodder really be held accountable for the fact that some of the double-glazed units are broken, or that there is an inadequate cleaning regime?
The official line that 'the centre is closed because of problems with the structure of the building' is the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth.