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Rescue proposal for Isokon as listing is upgraded

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Architect Chris Flannery has come up with a rescue plan for Wells Coates' Isokon Flats in Hampstead, North London. Camden Council was expected to agree to sell the neglected Modernist classic at a meeting on Tuesday night. But the Department of Culture Media and Sport has thrown a spanner in the works - or an insurance policy that only sensitive, quality developers will come forward - by ugrading the building from Grade II* to Grade I.

Flannery, formerly of Harper Mackay and now of small North London practice Phadoemchit Flannery, last week formed the Isokon Trust and has sent details of his ideas to Camden Council, English Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society. He aims to refurbish the famous 1934 flats - also known as Lawn Road - and open them up to public access and for educational use. The bare minimum he hopes for is that just one of the 36 flats should be left for exhibition purposes, but he also wants to reinstate the famous Isobar - delivering meals to residents via a dumb waiter - reducing the number of flats to 32. His draft proposal has 12 flats retained on a short-let basis for architectural artists or students: 'We could book it like a hotel and use the income to pay for the upkeep of the building.'

Other elements of the practice's approach include establishing resident artist courses for the community in the building, and leasing out flats on 99-year leases to pay for development costs. Flannery estimates that the building will cost around £1 million to buy and a further £1 million to refurbish. A private developer may be interested in taking the whole lot, or it may be possible to refurbish a small proportion for selling off or apply for cash help from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Flannery is also trying to enlist the help of John McAslan, whose designs for the building were shelved by Camden due to financial pressures. Both the Peabody Trust and developer Dorrington are also interested in taking on Isokon, Dorrington having linked up with McAslan again. McAslan told the aj the listing upgrade would mean that remodelling the flats might prove more expensive and less flexible, but might also ensure that only people with skills and an understanding of the building would be considered.

The dcms said that Camden's buildings had not been assessed for listing since May 1974. It has just published a new list with 200 new entries, including spot-listings, and some deletions. There were 43 upgradings including, now in Grade I, Lindsey House, Lincoln's Inn Fields; the British Museum King Edward VII galleries; Mary Ward House, Tavistock Place; and the Egyptian Avenue and Columnarium in Highgate Cemetery.

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