riba president David Rock has backed Bromley Council's fight to build a leisure centre designed by Ian Ritchie Architects on the site of the original Crystal Palace, which is being opposed by local protesters. Ritchie's £60 million scheme for London & Regional Properties includes a multiplex cinema and restaurants, and makes imaginative use of inclined glass. The protestors have won the legal right to a judicial review of the planning permission given by Bromley on the grounds that it contravenes the Crystal Palace Act of 1990.
In a letter to Stuart McMillan, Bromley's chief planner, Rock writes: 'The riba is not in a position to pronounce upon the legal interpretation of the Act, but it can state that the present design proposal has all the hallmarks of being innovative, with a glass and steel structure of exceptional quality. In this respect it is a design which repeats the design approach and reflects the spirit of its predecessor. On the question of style, the Act appears imprecise, and the word 'style' is recognised as being open to a broad interpretation. The riba believes the proposed design and its siting symmetrically about the park's axis comply with the intentions of the Act. Further, the question of style has to be read with all the conditions of the Act.
'Within the physical limitations of the site imposed under the Act, it is evident that no new building can ever remotely approach the same scale as its predecessor, which implies that any interpretation of the Act which attempts to mimic the original, will achieve nothing more than an out- of-scale parody, damaging both to its context and the surrounding inhabitants.'
In his letter, Rock describes Ian Ritchie Architects as 'one of the world's most innovative practices', saying that Ritchie himself has been at the forefront of glass structure design for the past 15 years.
He ends his letter: 'The riba re-affirms its support for this splendid project and design.'