The Twentieth Century (C20) Society has applied for listing in a bid to protect Basil Spence’s ‘major and extremely thoroughly considered’ Hyde Park Barracks from demolition
Around 20 teams are currently understood to be competing to buy the west London landmark which is expected to be replaced with new apartments overlooking Hyde Park.
Completed by Spence in 1970, the Brutalist complex – featuring a 33-storey residential tower – has been home to the Household Cavalry since 1795 but is now being sold by Ministry of Defence.
Quinlan and Francis Terry Architects – working with developer Bruce Rippon – has already revealed plans to replace the barracks with an enormous classically-styled residential block.
Dixon Jones is also working on a rival bid with property developer Cheval and although no images have been revealed of the proposal a comprehensive redevelopment is considered likely.
In a statement an ‘increasingly concerned’ C20 Society director Catherine Croft argued the Brutalist complex was an ‘intelligent solution to a very complicated brief’ worthy of statutory protection.
She said: ‘This is a major and extremely thoroughly considered work by one of the most prominent architects of the post war period. Its tower, although controversial when first constructed, is now an elegant landmark on the edge of Hyde Park.’
She continued: ‘It still works well today, is in excellent condition, and the only reason why demolition is being considered is that the site it is on could be extensively developed for private housing.’
Louise Campbell, professor at Warwick University, added: ‘The Hyde Park Cavalry Barracks is, with Coventry Cathedral, the British Embassy in Rome and Sussex University, one of Spence’s most important and dramatic projects.’
She continued: ‘It is an ingenious piece of urban design which uses robust forms to create an architecture of modern ceremony, set against the backdrop of the Royal parks. We cannot afford to lose this chunk of modern London, a legacy of the confident and flamboyant 1960s.’
[however…]Commenting on the listing application, Francis Terry said: ‘No building should be listed until 100 years after it has been built. There should be a significant buffer zone so you have a critical perspective.’
Terry argued the building – originally designed for 500 personnel and 270 horses – was no longer fit for purpose.
Explaining why he thought demolition was the best option, he said: ‘It’s just personal taste, I don’t like [the existing building].’
It’s not a very adaptable building
Asked whether refurbishment was an option, he said: ‘It’s not a very adaptable building, it was designed for horses and the tower is virtually empty. The chamber at the top of the tower was designed as a squash court.
‘It would probably be quite difficult to adapt.’
Justifying his proposal, Terry said: ‘I am seeing London becoming increasingly looking like Dubai and I would rather push it in a Haussmann-Paris direction.’