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Big names urge Cass chiefs to drop relocation plans

Cass Protest
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The vice chancellor and board of governors at London Metropolitan University should abandon plans to relocate the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art – or resign – according to a group of international architectural academics

The nine eminent figures said the university’s managers did not appear to understand what had made the architecture school success in drawing up plans to relocate the facility to Holloway, north London from its current Aldgate base.

The group, which includes Sergison Bates’ co-founder and TU Munich architecture chair Stephen Bates, Adrian Forty from UCL, Tony Fretton and Kenneth Frampton from Columbia - said that representations it has made to the university’s leaders have been ignored.

In a statement, the academics said: ‘We have attempted to engage the chairman of the governors of London Met in discussion about the current plan for the Cass, but unfortunately he terminated the exchange. In particular, he declined to confirm that our letters had been passed to the Board of Governors at the meeting on 26 January 2016, as we requested.

‘We had expected a reasoned response to the issues we raised, particularly since our concerns are echoed in private and in public right across the board: by the London creative community, academic staff, students, the press, and members of both the House of Commons and House of Lords. Sadly, this was not the case.

‘Only the vice chancellor and board of governors of the university seem oblivious to these concerns, which surely is enough to give pause for thought.’

The statement went on to compare the current situation to the 2009 resignation of the vice chancellor and board of governors, after heavy criticism by a report into governance and management.

It said: ‘The recent history of London Met has been tumultuous. But it seems that the mistakes of the past are all being repeated, above all the authoritarian management and dismissive attitude to staff concerns that were so roundly criticized by the Melville Report in 2009.

‘The time has come for the current Vice Chancellor and governors to either withdraw their current proposals or follow the example of their predecessors.’

The statement has also been sent to culture secretary Ed Vaizey, with the authors asking the minister to intervene if the vice chancellor and board do not resign voluntarily.

The signatories to the statement are:

  • Prof Stephen Bates, chair of architecture and urbanism, TU Munich, Germany
  • Prof Adrian Forty, emeritus professor of architectural history, The Bartlett UCL
  • Prof Kenneth Frampton, Ware professor of architecture, Columbia University USA
  • Prof Tony Fretton, emeritus professor of architectural design-interiors TU Delft, The Netherlands
  • Prof Christoph Grafe, professor of architectural history and theory, University of Wuppertal, Germany and director of the Flanders Architecture Institute, Antwerp
  • Vicky Richardson, director architecture design and fashion, the British Council
  • Prof Daniel Rosbottom, chair of architectural design-interiors, TU Delft, The Netherlands
  • Prof Jonathan Sergison, Academy of Architecture, Universita della Svizzera italiana, Lugano and Mendrisio, Switzerland
  • Prof Mark Swenarton, emeritus professor of architecture, University of Liverpool.

However a spokesman for London Met disputed the academics’ version of events, saying that the university’s chair of governors had written to the signatories on 21 January to correct a number of errors in their statement.

He said: ’Their response to that letter suggested that “as a group of eminent international academics”, they have a better understanding of The Cass – our own faculty - than our own university leadership.

‘Given that our vice chancellor was head of a successful architecture school and a dean of the built environment for a decade, we find this a remarkable assertion to make.’

The vice chancellor also offered to call one of the academics – professor Mark Swenarton from the University of Liverpool - to discuss the issue, but this offer was rejected, the spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the university’s architecture school was located for more than 100 years in Holloway, only moving to Aldgate in 2012.

Cass students protest outside Central House

Cass protest 2

Staff and students protest against plans to move the Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design from east London [5 November]

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