bdp, architect of a new £30 million sports and teaching building for South Bank University in London, has hit back at conservationists' attempts to block the development.
The Georgian Group has demanded a spot- listing of two late Georgian terraces which bdp proposes to demolish to make way for the 18,000m2 centre. The group has also called for the urgent creation of a conservation area around St George's circus in Southwark at the centre of the development.
The conservationists described bdp's lecture, theatre and sports complex as 'utterly overbearing' and a 'vast and indifferent building.'
In particular, the Georgian Group's casework secretary, John Neale, wants the university to repair and reuse the existing terraces rather than erect a new building. The Georgian Group is a statutory consultee in all planning applications involving Georgian buildings.
'It is appalling that the university should propose to pull down these handsome and historic late-Georgian buildings and put up in their place something so thoroughly indifferent to everything that is of value around it,' Neale said.
But bdp's project architects Tony McGuirk and Chris Harding last week defended their decision to demolish the terraces. They said that the housing has been disused and boarded up for ten years. The terraces have already seen one application for listing rejected by the Department of National Heritage in 1995.
'As a practice we are interested in regeneration. ... This is a fantastic opportunity for regeneration and an important academic building,' McGuirk said. He claimed that the bdp design (above right) had won the support of Kit Allsop, head of the university's architecture school, during widespread consultations with the community. But the secretary of state for culture, media and sport Chris Smith has yet to decide on whether to list the buildings and block the design, which includes two public swimming pools, three lecture theatres and a public right of way through the building.
A planning decision from Southwark borough council is expected in March and work is due to start this autumn.