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Demands for Rogers British Museum extension to be 'called in'

Camden Civic Society has called for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ recently approved extension to the British Museum to be ‘called in’ by the Government

The proposed extension was approved by Camden Council last week, nine to three in favour of the re-jigged proposals, having previously refused the practice’s initial designs for the redevelopment of the north-western corner of the Grade I-listed London landmark.

In a statement issued by chair Martin Morton, Camden Civic Society (CCS) outlined its intentions: ‘Together with the Bloomsbury CAAC, we shall also now be asking the Secretary of State, Department of Communities and Local Government, to “call-in” the revised application, that is, to refer it to an Inquiry.’

The CCS object to the £135 million extension because of ‘the great harm it will do to the Museum’s existing magnificent Grade I listed buildings…[and] the damage it will do to the setting of other listed buildings and the character of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area.’

Readers' comments (18)

  • Good, and I suggest that many others will be seeking this also.

    It is disgraceful that such damage can be contemplated to the existing internationally important buildings. The support of English Heritage for this requires examining in detail, and the issues surrounding the whole extension debacle require the full examination which can now only be brought in the arena of a public inquiry.

    It is all very well being the custodians of important collections, but can those responsible for this not see that such custodianship includes the museum building itself, and the wider area?

    This is not a 'modern v traditional' design issue, it is about how much value we should place on our existing buildings and the wider historic environment. Those appear to have been fogetten in the approval of this extension.

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  • Dear Anonymous, The scheme for the extension to the BM is excellent and very well worked through. English Heritage agree, Cabe agree and now Camden agree. All three processes will stand up to robust scrutiny. Your side won before because you made your points well, but this time your points against a better proposal were less good which is why the decision went against you. Yours Anonymous

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  • I don't see how they can be getting so het up about it; it's so self-effacing a building you can hardly see it at all.

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  • The buildings are not only self-effacing they are more in keeping with the predominantly stone facades on three sides of the sunken garden than is the present pair of fake georgiana. The demarcation between the museum/university zone and Bedford Square/lower end of Gower Street will be strengthened. There will be a gebneral gain in urban coherence. It is extremely disappointing to find a civic society incapable of recognising this.

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  • It's clear that the commentators above have no understanding whatsoever of the application which has been approved. It's so disappointing to understand how little some do understand.

    The existing building, Listed Grade I, will be seriously damaged, as will parts of the wider conservation area.

    The latter might be bearable; the former is unforgivable.

    The role of English Heritage in all this requires some close scrutiny.

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  • Dear Anonymous, I am sorry to say it is you who lack understanding. Everyone concerned knows exactly what affect the application will have on the setting of the listed building and the conservation area. They just don't happen to agree with your analysis. That is why they approved it. Your 'disappointment' is just a bleat about your argument being dismissed. Yours Anonymous

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  • It's a not a bleat, actually, its a long howl of rage, against those like you who really don't give a damn, an English Heritage which has lost its way, and those who cannot see that conservation means more than just the collections.

    Why was it approved? CABE's remit isn't the existing building. English Heritage is frightened to say no, in case it is seen to be standing in the way of supposed 'progress', despite so much being against existing national and local policies for the protection of the historic environment, and most councillors haven't a clue, along with those employed as planners.

    These issues need to be aired at a public inquiry.

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  • Re 'setting of the listed building and the conservation area.'

    British Museum amends planning application

    Society of Antiquaries

    Fellow Hero Granger Taylor, speaking for the Camden Civic Society, said that ‘the trio of new openings to be cut into Smirke’s magnificent and recently restored Great Court north façade remain in the proposal’ and she questioned whether the conservators need to be housed on the Bloomsbury site, adding that ‘the top-lit glass studios proposed in the current scheme are in any case unsuitable for conservation; direct sunlight will cause endless problems for the Museum’s conservators’. "

    So, cutting holes in the existing important building is a little more than damage to the setting.

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  • Camden Civic and Bloomsbury CAAC have had every chance to make their 'points' before the planning meeting. They filed to persuade. Time they stopped this pointless vendetta. The new plans are wonderful and I hope the bM can get on with them asap.

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  • Dear Anonymous of 9.23pm, So here we have it. The reason you lost (apparently) is because one body has no remit, one is too afraid, one is clueless and the rest of us don't give a damn. Only you, it seems, have either the wisdom and the fortitude to see the correct path. You couldn't be more wrong about CABE. Your complaint about English Heritage is without foundation and I doubt that your insults towards the councillors that form the planning committee would have been made the first time round when you won. Were they as clueless then? As for the rest of us, we care rather a lot. Yours Anonymous

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  • Just to add my 2 cents worth, i personally, (although only having seen the one pic a both) think its a sophisticated and elegant proposal that sits very well in its context. thats only my opinion obviously.

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  • To the person who keeps assuming that this anon is part of Camden - you are wrong.

    But so was the decison to spoil the existing building.

    I'm afraid I have a great deal of knowledge about CABE, and have read its report. Its remit isn't the protection of the existing building. And EH has lost its way, and yes, councillors are frequently hopeless, as are planning officers.

    This should be called in, in order that the damage to the existing building can be explored in depth.

    And a number of people and organisations objected to this, not only Camden and Bloomsbury.

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  • Just one question: why on earth are so many of us anonymous?

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  • I think its lovely.

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  • who is Samuel Anderson - if not a cover name?

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  • Dear Anonymous of 12.33pm, Reading through all this, I think it is you who have lost your way and, it seems the argument. I too have a very good knowledge not just of CABE but of all three organisations and I know what you say about them is wrong. Why you should assume that I might think you are from Camden is beyond me, but as long as you remain anonymous, why should anyone care? Yours Anonymous

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  • Why all the bother? The listed building is an inelegant, drab, example of neo-classical architecture (with questionable - at best - intellectual references) clearly of no expressive value to the diverse society we live in today. We should be rethinking a lot more carefully what the image and idea behind a 'British Museum' should be.

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  • Well, Anon, as you are Anon, 22nd Dec 3.22 I we have only your word that you have any idea what you are talking about. I know I do, I'm not sure you do.

    As for 6.28, it's clear you really haven't any idea at all.

    A call in to examine all the issues surrounding this application in detail would be very useful indeed.

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