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McAslan wins EH support for latest Roundhouse plans

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John McAslan & Partners' design for the world-famous Roundhouse in Camden, North London, has won support from English Heritage, and the arts project is expecting a lottery decision early next year.

The design for the Grade II*-listed former railway building and gin warehouse includes a 2500-seat multi-use performance space with an acoustic disk overhead, which doubles as a viewing platform, raised on slender metal posts and linked to a mezzanine by footbridge. Rooflights will be reinstated, and a 'coolie hat' of a 300mm layer of insulation and a steel structure on top of the existing wooden frame will keep the sound of passing trains out and loud music in. A glass tower with spiral staircase will be tacked on to the facade, and a restaurant will hug the curving brick wall, offering views out without masking the cylindrical form.

Below the stage is a brick warren of catacombs and tunnels, most of which will be retained to form a multi-media nerve centre of music rooms, recording studios, and film, tv and radio centres.

The Roundhouse renaissance is the brainchild of retired toy tycoon Torquil Norman. The former executive chairman of Bluebird Toys, worth £100 million, has pledged more than £6 million to the project. He hopes to win around £11 million from the Arts Council and £5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

'A theatre agent once said that the Roundhouse has a habit of spitting out the things it doesn't like,' Norman said of the venue used by Pink Floyd, Jimmy Hendrix and the Doors. 'We hope this will be thoroughly digestible. The paramount need is to change as little as possible of the main hall and preserve the gritty character. We hope to encourage children who have never had the chance to experience the arts.'

John McAslan & Partners has been invited to enter a competition for a multi-media hq in Warsaw, Poland. It is the only uk practice taking part - other entrants include Norway's Niels Torp. The 30,000m2 project for Agora is due for phased completion from 2001.

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