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Kingston students launch UNESCO heritage bid for the London pub

[THIS WEEK] Kingston School of Architecture, Landscape and Interior Design has launched an ambitious bid to secure UNESCO World Heritage status for the humble London pub, writes James Pallister

The metropolitan boozer – that perennially celebrated but beleaguered beast – is the subject of study this year at Kingston School of Architecture. Students are charged with developing a deeper than usual interest in bars and pubs, in that their task this year is to achieve UNESCO world heritage status for the London pub. No mean feat, and one which will entail more than consuming six pints of strong continental in differing locations. Their task is made more difficult by their brief, which requires the bid to champion not one particular pub, but to make the case in the application to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for the London Pub as a type

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Head of School Daniel Rosbottom, now in his fifth year heading the school, says he is deadly serious about the intention to achieve World Heritage Status, though he concedes it will be a tough challenge. And even if the bid isn’t successful, tutor David Knight points out that the research could prove useful to bodies such as Design for London or English Heritage.

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At last week’s crit, Part 1s and 2 students on the Architecture, Landscape and Interior Design courses pinned up their survey of pubs as part of the school’s week-long ‘Vertical Project’, a sort of annual ice breaker in which students work together across year groups and departments. The idea is to brush up basic skills, kickstart the research project, and provoke a discussion about place and heritage, its pros and cons and what Rem Koolhaas has characterised as the ‘incredible increase in nostalgia and decrease in memory’.

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Kingston Architecture, Landscape and Interiors Students at the Vertical Crit


A discussion of what would make the case convincing, and of the defining characteristics of each of their case study pubs followed. Jamie Dean of DfL described the difficulties of getting Charles Darwin’s Landscape Laboratory at Down House onto the UK’s tentative list - the first step in winning UNESCO World Heritage statues.

Despite eliciting a few grumbles from landlords about students photographing their pub interiors and – even worse – ordering lattes, the field research was successful, with the students studying round 87 pubs between them and each group displaying their findings on A3 sheets, together with short films made in the Lumiere fashion. The resulting research could easily be polished into an excellent little Pevsner for pub-goers.

World heritage status is given to sites that ‘exhibit an important interchange of human values’ and ‘represent a masterpiece of creative genius’. I’ve often been struck by both of these within the four walls of a pub. Mainly toward closing time. The students have to make the claim stand up in the cold light of day – it’ll be a stimulating journey. 

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