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Grimshaw's controversial Ellipse abandoned in shock RCA U-turn


The long-running dispute over Grimshaw's Ellipse building for the Royal College of Art (RCA) has finally come to an end following the college's decision to abandon the proposals.

The RCAhas decided to discard the redevelopment plans that have caused it so much trouble since it first announced a design competition for the Kensington Gore site in 2000.

The scheme - which faced widespread opposition - had been called in by the Government Office for London after Westminster council indicated that it was minded to give the designs the planning green light.

But the RCA's rector Christopher Frayling left observers stunned on Monday when he carried out a U-turn and abandoned the proposals altogether.

'We have decided to withdraw our planning application because of the uncertainties and costs of the planning process, ' he said. 'Our students need certainty where our building plans are concerned, and we could not justify spending huge amounts of public money on legal fees.

'The RCA is one of the key crucibles of young art and design talent, and this is, in some ways, a critical moment for the creative industries in this country.

'But the college moves on, and our new estates options have in recent months become both exciting and achievable, ' Frayling added.

If it had gone ahead, the Ellipse - which aimed to complement the curves of the nearby Royal Albert Hall - would have included new galleries, new student space and a new postgraduate drawing room.

However, many groups - including a large body of local residents, the Royal Albert Hall, the original architect of the existing RCA building, Jim CadburyBrown and Docomomo - opposed the scheme.

They launched a campaign to get the project shelved, arguing that it would damage both Cadbury-Brown's urban design and views of the Royal Albert Hall.

'I am delighted with this news, ' said Docomomo's James Dunnett. 'Although, I have to admit, it would have been interesting if it had gone to appeal because we felt our arguments were very strong.

'It is a very important victory because neither the RCA nor Grimshaw seemed to understand that the Modern Movement's urbanism was all about the space between buildings and this was what they wanted to destroy, ' he added.

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