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Local groups lay into Commonwealth Institute plans

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Local conservation groups have expressed their anger over the recently submitted plans for the Rem Koolhaas-designed Commonwealth Institute in High St. Kensington, West London

The plans, which were submitted on 22 April to the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea suggest major alterations to the Grade II* listed building, with the construction of three six to nine-storey buildings and a museum, possibly the Design Museum.

This will leave just the roof of the 1960’s building – which will be renamed the Parabola remaining. Jon Wright of the 20th Century Society, is ‘dismayed’ at the plans and tells the AJ none of the suggestions offered to the developer, has been taken on board.

‘We have worked extensively with OMA (Koolhass firm) and the developer Chelsfield during the planning stage, but it seems that none of the advice has been factored into the proposals. If anything these plans have exacerbated the concerns we raised. How is sympathetic to the surrounding area?’

Local residents group, the Edwardes Square Scarsdale and Abingdon Association have brought on Brian Waters, president of the Association of Consultant Architects and Bryan Avery to draw up plans for an alternative, more sympathetic scheme which retains the institutes function as an exhibition centre.

‘We produced an extremely good, clear assessment of the historical importance of that building and delivered to the local authority,’ said Waters. ‘The setting of the building is crucial, the wing of the building is crucial and it is important the planning authority brief recognises it is not just talking about a ‘tent’ in a park.

‘We believe it has a future as an exhibition, events and conference centre. To say it is being developed isn’t the word. It is being demolished and it is quite unnecessary.’

A statement from Chelsfield said: The new buildings continue the modern spirit of boldness and ingenuity of the original but are carefully respectful of the Parabola and also the setting of Holland Park and the Kensington High Street.

The building’s refurbishment and new use will give a neglected London icon a new life and purpose and will invigorate this part of Kensington High Street.’

See Rem Koolhass’s plans here:


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