FESTIVAL LEGACY FACES THE END
One of the last remaining Festival of Britain buildings, the information pavilion at St Paul's Cathedral, faces demolition if a radical replacement scheme by Make Architects wins approval.
Make is proposing to replace the pavilion with a 150m 2 contemporary kiosk, which is described as a 'folded metallic envelope reminiscent of origami'.
Triangular in shape and oriented towards Christopher Wren's masterpiece, the new design is characterised by a striking stainless-steel roof and fully glazed frontage - a drastic departure from the existing circular facility.
Make claims the project has the backing of conservation watchdogs, despite being adjacent to one of London's architectural gems.
However, the Twentieth Century Society (C20), while not opposing the project in principle, is vowing to save the existing pavilion from the wrecking ball.
The society, which attempted to get the information point listed a couple of years ago, points at first to Pevsner, who was clearly keen on the structure as a representative of the era from which it came.
'The lightweight paired supports, glazing and crossbraced lantern still proclaim the Festival style, ' he wrote.
C20 case worker Eva Branscome argues that the original structure, by Corporation of London in-house architect Albert Richardson, is of tremendous historic importance and should be preserved.
She says: 'Make's proposal is exciting, but the pavilion is of obvious historic interest - being only one of three structures surviving from the Festival of Britain, with the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank and Lansbury Estate, Poplar.' C20 is campaigning to have the building dismantled and rebuilt at Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, Worcestershire. But this ambitious plan is already running out of steam.
City of London funding for the move seems unlikely after planners confirmed the relocation cost would be prohibitively expensive to taxpayers. And doubts have emerged over Avoncroft's capacity to accommodate the pavilion.
Attempts to secure listed status have flopped because too little of the original fabric remains intact. Much of the distinctive red, white and grey panelling, for example, has been substituted with brick infill.
Branscome though is confident the pavilion could be relocated without harm. She says: 'The building originally sat in Festival Gardens (Battersea Park) before being shifted in 1955 to its current site in St Paul's Churchyard, so it is clearly designed to be moved.' Describing the new scheme, Make partner Sean Affleck says it would redefine public space around the cathedral.
'This will be a simple, elegant, geometric form, not a pastiche, ' he says.
'Surrounding hard areas will be landscaped to provide a generous green space that invites visitors to linger and admire St Paul's.'
While its function may not be immediately obvious to passers-by, Affl eck insists the glazed elevation will ensure the building's role is clear at all times of the day.
He adds: 'We are using modern construction techniques to ensure the design is environmentally friendly.' Planning approval is expected in June or July of this year, with demolition potentially beginning in October. Make is confident the new pavilion will be open for business by April 2007.
Realistically, the original pavilion seems destined to go in the interest of progress. After all, the ethos of the 1951 festival was innovation.
Maybe there is a way to save this modest piece of postwar architecture. There are few enough examples remaining.