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Future plans for Commonwealth Institute take shape

Kensington and Chelsea Council has thrown its weight behind a conservation-led approach to the proposed overhaul of Holland Park's Commonwealth Institute - allaying any lingering fears the Grade-II* building could be demolished.

Over the last few years rumours have been rife that the 1962 Modernist gem was to be flattened, and the government even made initial moves to have the building de-listed (Government U-turn clears way for shock Commonweath Institute demolition).

However, the local authority has unveiled a new planning brief for the site, as a supplementary planning document, stipulating that the iconic tent-like building by Robert Matthews, Johnson-Marshall and Partners should and could be reused.

The council goes onto explain what it expects from any future development on the site in Kensington High Street, including 'non-residential institutional' uses and space for leisure activity, a theatre or even a hotel.

It also advises that the exhibition hall should 'stay intact' and that setting of the building should be improved 'to more faithfully realise the concept of the original design concept'.

Even so the authority has warned against Class B1 office use on the plot and said that it would not be keen on housing.

The document reads: 'If residential use is being envisaged as enabling development, it must be established at the same time how the main building is to be occupied long term.

'There is no clear functional link between residential use and reuse of the main building for other purposes.'

The guidance - revealed exclusively to the AJ - could be particularly informative for Foster & Partners, which has allegedly been asked to work on plans for the redevelopment of the institute by developers Ilchester Estates and Chelsfield (AJplus 24/4/07).

The full document can be read here.

by Richard Waite

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