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Wrong call


At long last, a major housebuilding company uses a really good architect for a significant scheme on a historic site on the banks of the Thames.

The architect is given a proper contract to avoid any suggestion that his designs can be 'dumbed down'.The design is radical but, given the robustness of the context and the nature of its neighbours, it needs to be.What happens? English Heritage puts the boot in; so does Southwark Council.We are talking about the Berkeley Group's proposals for Potters Fields, sandwiched between Tower Bridge and Foster & Partners'Greater London Authority HQ.The architect is Ian Ritchie, whose design comprises a series of medium-rise elliptical towers, with a ground plane made over to public access and public uses on the ground floors of all the buildings.Why Southwark is opposing the scheme is a mystery.

It has in the past expressed the lame argument that the development should resemble the warehouse buildings to the east of the bridge; well, they didn't say that about the Foster GLA building or the 'More London' office complex by the same practice.What happens next?

Ritchie has a good track record on legal cases. He won a High Court action in respect of his 'Crystal Palace' design and also fought in court, successfully, to achieve his Dublin 'spike'. All power to his elbow - and (for once) to Berkeley. English Heritage will surely include the Ritchie complex in future editions of its splendid guide to post-war listed buildings, compiled by Elain Harwood. It is a must-buy.

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