Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Surrealism is alive at Heathrow

  • Comment

The Alice in Wonderland world of British architecture and planning flies into another mind-numbing year via Heathrow, where the inquiry into Richard Rogers' plan for Terminal 5 shows every sign of making millionaires out of even more planning lawyers than usual. Why come to a speedy conclusion when you can squander £100 million before a sod is dug? So unlike the French; President Mitterrand, when asked how his country managed to produce Charles de Gaulle Airport so fast, responded, 'When you have to drain the pond, you don't consult the frogs.' What we do is consult everybody in sight, pretend that they have been taken by surprise to discover that there is an airport in Hounslow, and then take the same decision anyway.

Alas, it is not just at Terminal 5 where the ghost of Lewis Carroll reigns. Consider if you will the case of a building which is too good to be extended. I quote from the appeal inspector's report (planning permission refused, of course), issued just before Christmas: 'I consider that the proposal would inappropriately detract from the appearance of this exceptionally fine building . . . erection of the proposed extension would spoil the concept of the original building, thereby devaluing what has been acclaimed as a building of world class.'

Thank goodness for the planning system, you may think, protecting masterpieces from the ravages of the uncivilised. The reality is rather different. The architect is Michael Manser. The building is his Heathrow Hilton, which has one of the highest occupancy rates of that chain anywhere in the world. His extension plan was sketched out in his first designs for the hotel. It is hard to glean from his report whether the planning inspector has a pronounced sense of irony, but it must have occurred to him that had the original design been mediocre (like almost every other hotel at Heathrow), he might have welcomed a stylish addition. As it is, the message to clients seems to be: employ good architects at your peril.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.