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AJ poll: two thirds of architects oppose Broadgate listing

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AJ readers have come out against English Heritage’s (EH) controversial decision to recommend Broadgate Square in the City of London for Grade II* listing

Nearly two-thirds of the 230 voters in an AJ online poll thought it would be a mistake to give statutory heritage protection to the ‘influential’ 1980s office development designed by the late Peter Foggo, then director Arup Associates.

Part of the campus is set to be demolished for Make’s already approved 5 Broadgate scheme for developer British Land – however the 65,000m2 project could be derailed should culture secretary Jeremy Hunt agree with EH’s call for Grade II* listing.

A spokesperson added: ‘EH does not lightly recommend listing – the process of assessment and consultation is extremely thorough. Experience has shown that listing must be one step ahead of fashion, and we seek to celebrate those buildings that are exemplars of their time and place… including key design of the recent past.’

The Twentieth Century Society has come out in support of EH, saying that although the stone-clad buildings represented a ‘very different proposition to established iconic buildings’, they should be preserved as symbolic of ‘a decade where the City in particular experienced vast changes in image and function’.

However Robert Tavernor, London School of Economics emeritus professor of architecture and urban design, who wrote a report for UBS on the merits of the existing buildings, branded the recommendation ‘extraordinary’, and said that the buildings did not meet the criteria for listing at any grade (see attached).

‘Broadgate is a transitional product symptomatic of the changes the City was grappling with: it is neither outstanding nor particularly important. To preserve it on the grounds of “outstanding quality” [Grade II*] would be disproportionate.’

Meanwhile, a report drawn up for British Land by architecture critic Kenneth Powell and former Royal Fine Arts Commission secretary Francis Golding stated that the threatened 4 and 6 Broadgate buildings ‘were widely agreed not to be Peter Foggo’s best work’.

It continued: ‘The decision that the building should be clad in stone was forced upon the architect by the City of London planning officers, and the developer and the City now accept this was a mistake and weakened the design and its context.’ Hunt is not expected to deliver his verdict until next month.


Architects’ reaction

Julyan Wickham, WICKHAM van EYCK architects

I was most surprised to see that 65% of your readers do not think that Peter Foggo’s excellent Broadgate Square buildings should be listed thus protected and would suggest that perhaps many of those who participated in your on-line poll may not fully know or understand what this project actually is or was intended to be. This, as was, clearly demonstrated by Wayne Hemingway’s monstrous gaff on the BBC’s Newsnight the week before last.

Just one look on google earth should show anyone including, an architect, how this project pioneered architectural ‘spatial’ master planning and led the way for a good and respected architect with enlightened developers, in this case Stuart Lipton and Peter Rogers, to make the city readable and accessible to all. The plan and scale of the development is as near to perfect as any architect could have hoped for and the style is clearly most representative of its time.

While I am sure Foggo, like most good architects, would have liked to, with hindsight, do better than he was allowed, we must all accept that planners often have a negative influence on architects work, however it would not be so difficult to replace all those stone louvres with some thing more in keeping with the first building of the scheme on Finsbury Avenue.

This new proposal by Make simply represents the usual property asset stripping and is an un-necessary gross waste of resource and again will, for years to come, inevitably blight the this neighbourhood with disruptive building activity. We all have to ask ourselves if we can go on throwing away perfectly useful buildings in a world where resources are becoming ever more scarce.

What is more the claim that Ken Shuttleworth designed the “gherkin” tower seems to be incorrect as this, according to me, is a building by Norman Foster.

John Allan, Avanti Architects

I was approached in March by English Heritage for an opinion on the listability of the Broadgate buildings, and my response is in the public domain.

I considered it strictly according to the prescribed listing criteria and came to the conclusion that ‘on balance’ the required conditions were satisfied. Obviously in such high profile situations there are many other factors at stake, but these do not feature in the technical consideration of listing.

Much of the current press coverage indicates that the listing process, including the Certificate of Immunity procedure, is not properly understood. Listing focuses on architectural and historic significance and – rightly or wrongly - takes no cognisance of such matters as embodied energy, development values or the merits or otherwise of potential replacement schemes.

But people should be aware that listing does not prevent designated buildings being altered, or in some cases even demolished. It ‘simply’ raises the height of the hurdle before such interventions are possible. In the event that the Secretary of State confirms English Heritage’s recommendation it would then be for the developers, if they are minded to pursue their case, to mobilise ‘clear and convincing justification’ (in the words of PPS5 para HE9.1) mindful of the provision that ‘substantial harm to or loss of…Grade II*listed buildings…should be wholly exceptional’.

Instead of hyperbolic headlines it would be more informative if people just read what the rules say and then act accordingly.

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