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Heron is the latest to neglect urban space

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The importance of urban spaces has been written about a great deal over the past few decades, yet it seems that even our most illustrious institutions are intent on their destruction.

It could well be argued that the courtyard at the Victoria and Albert Museum, soon to be filled by Libeskind's 'spiral', contributes significantly to the spatial qualities of the area.

Clearly visible as a space through its listed columnar screen, it performs a vital role in lightening the heavy masses of the museum and providing spatial variety.

A similar proposal from the Royal College of Art (pictured), a few steps up the road, has now been published. The RCA is intent on demolishing the single-storey entrance and exhibition area of their listed building and replacing it with a six- or seven-storey slab by Nicholas Grimshaw.

This will disrupt the important urban spaces around the Albert Hall and break the symmetry between the RCA and Albert Hall Mansions, quite apart from severely damaging Cadbury-Brown's distinguished building.

Urban space was of great concern to architects of the Modern Movement but not, it seems, their successors. Mies' Mansion House Square was perhaps the last attempt to create a significant new urban space in central London, but was replaced by Stirling's No 1 Poultry, which fills the whole site.

Foster's Willis Faber likewise filled its site. Recently, the plinth block attached to the 1960s Euston Tower was demolished, and for a time a landscaped open space was allowed to remain. It has now mostly been filled by a new structure several times higher than the plinth.

The Heron Tower, now approved, creates no urban space at all.

We need to rediscover the value of voids to create calm and, yes, a sense of space in the urban realm.

James Dunnett, London N1

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