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Twentieth Century Society to fight Grimshaw's RCA plan

The Twentieth Century Society pledged this week to fight Grimshaw's plans for a new building for the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London.

The society has launched a last-minute bid to halt the £26 million development, which it claims will ruin the delicate relationship between the buildings around the Kensington site.

But the RCA's rector, Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, has rubbished criticisms of the scheme as an 'ill-informed rant' and accused the society of having 'a huge axe to grind'.

Grimshaw's scheme includes construction of a six-storey 'Ellipse building' on the site of the singlestorey entrance block to Cadbury Brown's 1962 listed Darwin building. The society is objecting to the alteration to Cadbury Brown's building, but is more concerned about the impact on its 'crucial' spatial relationship with the neighbouring Royal Albert Hall, Royal College of Organists and Norman Shaw's Albert Hall Mansions. The addition would have 'a national significance in urban design terms', the society says.

However, Frayling defended the 'perfect geometry' of the building's positioning. 'I don't know what they're talking about, ' he said. 'All this crap about negative space. Single-issue organisations live in a different world from me. I live in a living, breathing college. They want to put me in aspic.

The college is not a monument, it's an organism that grows.'

Frayling also questioned why the society had launched its campaign so late in the day - the college had been consulting over the plans for the past 18 months. The scheme, which has won over English Heritage and CABE, is being considered by Westminster council, with a decision expected at the end of March.

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