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Astragal: Antepavilion fights back over council removal order

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Despite the success of the Architecture Foundation’s annual Antepavilion commission, Hackney Council has thrown a bureaucratic spanner in the works

The local authority has served an enforcement notice on the owner of the competition site ordering him to remove two previous winning schemes. 

Its planning department claims that Maich Swift Architects’ 2019 Potemkin Theatre (pictured above) and PUP Architects’ 2017 H-VAC, which occupy the roof of Columbia and Brunswick Wharf in north-east London, are ‘incongruous’ with their surroundings and result in a loss of amenity. 

Site owner Russell Gray of property investor Shiva has, however, appealed against the notice, arguing that the council has failed to quantify the programme’s public benefits and has no hard evidence or specific complaints to back up any of its claims. 

Raising the stakes further, the latest Antepavilion competition – for a floating project rather than a rooftop one – asks entrants to ‘respond to the tension between authoritarian governance of the built environment and aesthetic libertarianism.’ Miaow!  

Tulip team considers a replant

Foster tulip index

Foster tulip index

News emerged last week that the team behind Foster + Partners’ highly controversial Tulip tower had finally decided to appeal against its rejection last summer by London mayor Sadiq Khan. 

In the nick of time too – the appeal deadline was 19 January. Perhaps the scheme’s funder, J Safra Group which also owns the neighbouring Gherkin, was waiting until the election outcome before making its move?

Even so, the Tulip team have not been sitting idly on their hands. Rumour reaches Astragal that it looked at alternative locations for the 304m-tall tourist attraction in a bid to appease the heritage lobby. 

Historic England, in particular, had been concerned about how the massive concrete shaft would look projecting skyward behind key views of the Tower of London. 

It is understood a seed of an idea was planted suggesting the structure could potentially be moved across the already tight Gherkin plot to the other side (and out of sightlines). One to keep an eye on – especially if the appeal wilts …  

Is the ARB coming for Sadie?



Even dRMM co-founder Sadie Morgan is not perfect. True, she may be a Stirling Prize winner and professor who sits on almost as many important public boards as the prime minister. But she is also close to falling foul of The Architects Act 1997 as her occupation is inaccurately listed as ‘architect’ under two Companies House entries. 

Readers might consider this unimportant; the ARB thinks otherwise. Last month, as Morgan picked up another 11 letters to put after her name (Hon FRIBA, OBE), the board oversaw the successful conviction of one Sohail Chohan for falsely using the title of ‘architect’ on Companies House documents. 

Morgan told the AJ she had not filled out the highlighted Companies House forms and would look to change them. Chohan, on the other hand, had ignored several warnings from the ARB because he ‘did not realise they were important’.  

Boys Smith looks to a past utopia

The government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission – co-chaired by the late Roger Scruton – was expected to release its final report last month, finally putting an end to centuries of uncertainty by telling architects how to build better and beautifully. Yet, sadly, the report has yet to appear. 

Luckily, the commission’s co-head Nicholas Boys Smith – Create Streets founder, Historic England commissioner and Tory sweetheart – has instead released a blog post on right-wing website The Critic

Boys Smith pours scorn on fellow intellectuals who hark back to the 18th century. In fact, he declares, ‘the great age of town-making was the 12th and 13th centuries’. The problem with modernity – which seems obvious now Boys Smith has suggested it – is democracy. 

‘For hundreds of years, English towns had been run by their corporations and alderman,’ he observes. ‘No doubt many were modestly corrupt. But the fortunes of the merchant mayors and councillors were tightly tied to that of their towns.’ 

The solution to building better is simple, Boys Smith concludes: ‘Town councils need to think more like the corporations of old.’ 

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