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Canadians wade into latest Bath conservation row, taking on James Dyson - images

Canada's architectural community appears to be mobilising in a bid to save a Victorian building in Bath by a former chief architect of Canada.

At the source of the current controversy are plans to demolish the Newark Works factory ( pictured), by Thomas Fuller, a British-born architect who went on to achieve fame in North America.

If approved, the site would become home to a Wilkinson Eyre-designed academy sponsored by industrial design magnate James Dyson.

Earlier this week it emerged that conservationists were mobilising to halt the demolition by getting the 1850 building spot-listed.

And now they are being joined by their Canadian colleagues, who consider Fuller a far more important architectural figure than he is known to be in Britain - he designed the first Canadian Parliament in Ottawa and the New York State capitol in Albany.

'I hope there will be a hue and cry from Canada,' Dorothy Mindenhall, an architectural historian, currently co-authoring a book about Fuller with University of Victoria professor Christopher Thomas, told Canada's Globe and Mail.

'To my mind, this big, longitudinal building with a stone facade shows how he had developed the skill to produce the kinds of buildings he produced in Canada,' she added.

Both Mindenhall and Thomas have now lodged official objections to destroying Fuller's factory, citing its significance to Canada's architectural heritage. The Montreal-based Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada is also expected to weigh in on the controversy.

However yesterday Wilkinson Eyre took the opportunity to explain its demolition plans. 'Bath has a rich heritage of wonderful architecture, but we do not believe the Newark Works to be architecturally significant,' Chris Wilkinson said.

'This is a redundant industrial building outside the historic centre and within an area allocated for redevelopment.

'Demolition of the existing buildings was felt to be necessary by all parties in order to create safe access to the site for students and pupils, to allow the site to be raised above flooding level and to achieve two significant education developments within a realistic budget whilst contributing to the cultural sustainability of Bath,' Wilkinson added.

by Ed Dorrell

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