The Twentieth Century Society is calling for the spot listing of Norman Foster's Renault building in Swindon after learning of plans to pull it down. The Modern architecture champion is appealing to culture secretary Tessa Jowell to grant the seminal building Grade II* status after receiving an anonymous tip that it is threatened with demolition.
The factory, which was completed by Foster Associates in 1983, has lain empty for several years since it was bought by the current owner, Green Property. The company has been attempting to sell it, and has been marketing it through the property press.
The Twentieth Century Society's case officer Clare Barrett, who is writing to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport this week, said the building was important both in terms of Foster's career and the development of High-Tech. 'It it slick, but with a playful edge, ' she said. 'It pushes High-Tech that stage further beyond what Piano and Rogers were doing to create something more subtle.'
The threat to Renault follows the loss of an earlier Team Four building, also in Swindon, the 1967 Reliance Controls Electronics, which was knocked down in 1991. Barrett said it was unfortunate that while other towns were hoping to attract world-class architecture to create the 'Bilbao effect' and kick-start regeneration, Swindon had two such buildings: one has been lost, the other rumoured to be under threat. 'The Reliance building has been replaced by a PC World.
If we don't act now, something like that could happen to Renault.'
The site is brownfield land and 'ripe for development', she added.
However, Swindon council planning officer Andy Brown said he was not unaware of any demolition plans and insisted the council was mindful of the building's 'uniqueness'. 'We are looking at it closely to make sure it is a sensitive development, ' he said.
Three planning applications have been lodged by Green Property.
One, for conversion into smaller warehouse spaces that would involve the creation of additional windows along its length, has already been approved.