RIBA president Angela Brady and her practice Brady Mallalieu Architects have been criticised over plans to replace the 1911 Jewish Maternity Hospital in London’s East End with flats
The 33-unit proposal for community housing association Peabody, not yet submitted for planning, would follow the demolition of a number of unlisted Edwardian buildings in Underwood Road, Whitechapel.
Protestors were enraged by the start of demolition, despite ‘assurances’ from Peabody that work would not begin before a final public consultation on Monday night (7 November).
Local resident Tom Ridge, who handed an anti-development petition signed by more than 500 people to Peabody at the meeting, believes the buildings could be retained, with existing cottages converted into family homes. He said: ‘Brady has been quoted in the press about the importance of asking people what they want.
‘Yet here she is stamping out these buildings with a scheme that is not befitting of an RIBA president.’
Ridge claims Brady made a promise to him at the meeting to look at the potential of retaining the cottages. However, Peabody has since told the AJ it intends to push on with its plans and Brady has maintained she only offered to investigate whether retention was commercially viable.
A ‘shocked’ William Palin of Save Britain’s Heritage said: ‘This is Peabody’s darkest hour. In pursuing this misguided scheme, it is behaving like a commercial developer, and its credibility will undoubtedly suffer as a result.’
A spokesperson for Peabody and Brady Mallalieu explained that demolition had begun ‘prematurely’ following an error by the demolition contractor, Squibb Group, adding: ‘The buildings were put forward for statutory listing last year and were carefully considered by English Heritage. The proposal was turned down.
‘Despite English Heritage’s finding, Peabody is committed to recognising and commemorating the history of this site.
‘We have explored a number of options that involve keeping the existing buildings. None of these options have proved feasible as they would limit both the number of the homes and the layout of any new residential development, which would prevent the scheme from being financially viable.’
He added: ‘In time, the new homes we build here will become part of London’s heritage too, and part of the continuing story of this area of the East End.’
Jeremy Young of Featherstone Young:
This particular area has only scattered remnants of the pre-war urban fabric remaining, which whilst not of huge architectural importance as individual buildings are valuable in maintaining the mix of scale and styles which give character and richness to the area. I cycle down this street everyday, so I know this particular group of buildings is really the only such feature remaining on Underwood Road.
‘I haven’t seen the replacement proposals, and I assume, given the architect and developer involved, that they are well considered and designed, but it does seem a pity that the development couldn’t in some way incorporate or include some or all of this remnant of the street’s history.’
Chris Dyson of east end-based Chris Dyson Architects:
‘This building should be retained and imaginatively reused it is perfectly possible as they also retain so much social and local meaning. The east end was obliterated in the war and we should retain what little we have there are plenty of Brownfield sites for new buildings.’