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IMAX cinema and 12-year-old British Library addition among at-risk buildings


Two buildings completed in the past two decades have been named among the UK’s most valued endangered modern structures

The British Film Institute’s IMAX cinema designed by the late Bryan Avery, which opened in 1999, and the British Library Centre for Conservation by Long & Kentish, completed in 2007,  have both made the Twentieth Century Society’s latest Top 10 Buildings at Risk List.

William Whitfield and Andrew Lockwood’s 1980s Whitehall office block Richmond House – set to be turned into a temporary House of Commons – was named the most important at-risk building.

Three entries on the list are Grade II* listed with another Grade II listed. Five of the top 10 are in London with a further three from the South East and the remaining two in Sunderland and Wales.

Twentieth Century Society director Catherine Croft said: ‘Once England was seen to be leading the way in the conservation of historic buildings. Now the system is impotent and disastrously under-resourced.

Once demolished, these buildings and the stories they tell are lost forever

‘While listing used to protect our best historic buildings for posterity, today gaining consent to demolish them is becoming just a minor inconvenience for determined developers. Once demolished, these buildings and the stories they tell are lost forever.’

Avery Associates’ Imax cinema near Waterloo station boasted the widest cinema screen in the country when it opened at the very end of the last century.

It won the Millennium Design Award from the Design Council but is one of eight sites in the district identified for tall buildings in the updated Lambeth Local Plan.

Long & Kentish’s British Library Centre for Conservation was the final phase of building the north London institution, bringing together for the first time all of the library’s conservation staff.

It was created by joining two buildings with a new public terrace at first-floor level, giving the centre its own front door as well as an attractive public space. Despite being completed just 12 years ago, the addition is under threat of demolition to make way for a temporary compound for construction of Crossrail 2.

Richmond House, previously occupied by the Department for Health and Social Security, is due to be knocked down to create a temporary House of Commons chamber and offices while the Palace of Westminster undergoes a multi-billion refurbishment led by BDP and AHMM.

In Surrey, Broadway Malyan won approval last year for its plans to flatten the Grade II-listed former Birds Eye headquarters at Walton-Upon-Thames (1961).

Meanwhile, only two of the 10 buildings named on the previous Buildings at Risk list two years ago appear to have been saved: High Cross House in Dartington and a police station in Manchester.

Looking at the 2017 register, two structures are due to be knocked down: 60 Hornton Street in West Kensington and the Cumberbatch North & South student accommodation buildings in Oxford. The remaining six remain at risk.

Commentators recently warned that a decision by Historic England to cut down on the advice it gives on planning applications relating to Grade II-listed structures could threaten the nation’s built heritage.

Richmond House

Richmond House

Source: SAVE

Richmond House

The 2019 top 10 buildings at risk are

  1. Richmond House, London, by William Whitfield and Andrew Lockwood (1986)
  2. Former Fawley Power Station, Hampshire, by Farmer and Dark (1971)
  3. British Library Centre for Conservation, London, by Long & Kentish (2007)
  4. British Film Institute IMAX cinema, London, by Avery Associates (1999)
  5. Sunderland Civic Centre, by Basil Spence, Bonnington and Collins [and attributed to John S Bonnington] (1965)
  6. Homebase superstore, London, by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners (1987)
  7. Alton Estate, London, by London County Council Architects Department (1959)
  8. Ardudwy Theatre & Residential Tower, Coleg Harlech, Wales, by Ralph Colwyn Foulkes (1968; 1973)
  9. Former All Saints’ Pastoral Centre and Chapel, Hertfordshire, by Leonard Stokes (1899) and Ninian Comper (1927)
  10. Walton Court, former Birds Eye HQ, Surrey, by Tait and Partners (1960s) 

Readers' comments (2)

  • The 'updated Lambeth Local Plan' can't be much good at all if it ignores the IMAX cinema and proposes a high-rise in the roundabout, and I can only assume that - if there's no alternative site for a temporary compound for the construction of Crossrail 2 - the British Library building will have to be rebuilt (just like the Carlton Tavern, not that far away, is supposed to be). Otherwise it could be another nail in the coffin of HS2.
    Good news about High Cross House, though - but then that's far from the Greater London smash-and-build zone.

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  • Lambeth owns the freehold of the IMAX site and agreed a few months ago to spend £500k on feasilibity for a tall building as the 'apex' of the emerging cluster... costs to be shared with TfL, who own the freehold of the land surrounding the IMAX and have been 'consulting' for the last 18 months on the peninsularisation of the IMAX, which will create an even more log-jammed junction, but is worth millions to both authorities in terms of real estate.

    The only saving grace is that this is a piece of feather-in-her-cap flotsam from Sue Foster (the key champion of the Garden Bridge at Lambeth, but who was recently 'let go' and has washed up at RBKC responsible for Grenfell) and her Lambeth underling Sandra Roebuck, who has subsequently moved sideways... So, as usual, the hope is that Lambeth will incompetently defend the indefensible long after the caravan has departed, marching to the drum of its collective amnesia

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