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Maguire and Murray King's School building to be demolished after listing bid fails

Mitchinsons house canterbury crop
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Walters & Cohen’s science building at King’s School in Canterbury looks set to get under way next month after a request to protect an existing Maguire and Murray building on the site was turned down

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) ruled that Mitchinson’s Day House did not qualify for heritage status.

The Twentieth Century Society last year requested that the 1982 building designed by Maguire and Murray be Grade II listed.

But Historic England decided the house, close to Canterbury Cathedral, which was designed and is still used as a base for non-boarders at the historic school, did not meet the ‘high bar’ for listing post-war buildings, and the government turned down the application.

Walters & Cohen co-founder Cindy Walters told the AJ: ‘Maguire and Murray were fine architects. They did some highly regarded ecclesiastical architecture and also some fine educational buildings, although those have not been listed.

’The decision was made to provide a new facility for the school after a lengthy consultation process was undertaken to assess options for converting the building with the Cathedral’s Fabric Commission for England, Historic England, various archaeologists, historians and consultants. Although by a highly reputable firm, it was a building that in its context was no longer very useful to the school. We looked at converting it, but the case did not stack up.’ 

Instead the project will see Mitchinson’s Day House demolished and replaced with a three-storey science building featuring laboratories and related facilities.

Walters and cohen canterbury mitchinson house image by archetype studio

Walters & Cohen canterbury mitchinson house image by archetype studio

Source: archetype studio

Visualisation of Walters & Cohen’s proposal for the Mitchinson’s House site

‘The purpose is to collocate the science teaching facilities into one area, on the north side of the school,’ said Walters. ‘The rest of the school’s science accommodation is around that courtyard.

‘The school has outgrown Mitchinson’s Day House somewhat and has built a new facility at 16 Saint Radigunds Street to be used as a day house.’

The Twentieth Century Society had claimed that the Mitchinson’s Day School building with its ‘smooth render and steep, red-tiled roof’ was a ’fine example of the [firm’s] educational output’ and a ‘contextual addition to the King’s School’.

But an Historic England spokesperson said this week: ‘There is a high bar for listing post-war buildings, and alteration is a major consideration. After careful assessment we recommended Mitchinson’s Day House by architects Robert Maguire and Keith Murray should not be listed and DCMS agreed with our advice.

‘While noting the calibre of the architects – some of their significant work is already listed – there was less scope for innovative planning here than in their larger projects, and the internal plan has been altered from the original design and no longer illustrates the spatial inventiveness for which the practice was known.

’Although the building responds cleverly to its sensitive site, it is not innovative in its structure or use of materials; it followed a trend in design, rather than leading the way.’

A spokesperson for The Twentieth Century Society said it was ‘disappointed’ with the verdict but had no intention to appeal. 

King’s School clerk to the governers Mark Taylor said: ’We are delighted with the result particularly because it has demonstrated the enormous care and consideration that we have all undertaken prior to deciding to replace the building.  This is an extremely exciting time for King’s and we look forward to delivering a building that not only is fully fit for its educational purpose but will also sit extremely comfortably within its wonderful surroundings.’

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