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Council attacks RIBA over chamber refurb designs

The RIBA's ruling council last week reacted with horror to Allies and Morrison's newly completed refurbishment of the Grade II-listed council chamber at Portland Place.

The criticism of the £300,000 scheme - which emerged at the first council meeting to be held in the room last Wednesday - included an attack on the chamber's new sight-lines and disappointment with its building services.

The meeting's chair, president Paul Hyett, was particularly scathing. 'I cannot see everybody in the room, ' he said. 'How am I supposed to chair the council when I can't even gauge the mood?'

The work to refurbish the chamber - described by one councillor as 'interior desecration' - was commissioned in the summer of 2001 to make the room more attractive for private hire. However, Allies and Morrison was forced to tone down its original plans after the Twentieth Century Society slammed them as 'far too brutal' (AJ 18.10.01).

Past-president Rod Hackney also attacked the quality of the air conditioning and ventilation, describing the all-day council meeting as 'like being on a very long Atlantic airline flight'.

'The original room was perfect for the council, ' Hackney added. 'And it is important that changes are made so the president can see all the members and understand the general feeling of meetings.'

But president-elect George Ferguson defended the work, saying that it made the room 'more flexible' and therefore potentially more profitable.

Allies and Morrison told the AJ that the practice had achieved everything demanded in its brief and said, as far as it was aware, the RIBA's Premises Committee is 'very pleased with the work we have carried out'.

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