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Palumbo attacks 'shallow' No 1 Poultry plans

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Peter Palumbo has penned a scathing attack on new plans by Buckley Gray Yeoman to revamp No 1 Poultry in central London, calling them a ‘shallow, empty and of no account’

In a letter to the City of London planning department, the architectural patron who commissioned James Stirling to design the 1990s Postmodern icon, said the proposals would ‘deliberately dismantle and effectively destroy the geometry [of the building] with an ignorance, insensitivity, and a blithe contempt that is breathtaking in its gall’.

Palumbo said: ‘I have read and reread, several times over, those proposals masquerading under the headings ‘a small number of enhancements’ that would address and overcome the alleged ‘shortcomings’ of the building for those occupying it; and I have done so with increasing incredulity born of an intimate knowledge of 40 years experience of the site which was the subject of controversy and litigation through much of that time in view of its prominent location at Bank junction.’

Palumbo submitted his letter to support a bid by the Twentieth Century Society to award the building Grade II listing status. The campaign has already won backing from Stirling Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid and architectural critic Owen Hatherley.

Last week, 24 members of James Stirling and Michael Wilford & Partners’ office spoke out about the proposed revamp, including Stirling’s partner Michael Wilford and the scheme’s project architect Laurence Bain. In her letter to the Corporation of London, Hadid described the building as a ‘Postmodern masterpiece that deserves to be kept as a monument to innovative design and excellent execution’.

Hadid said: ‘The iconic site in the heart of the city is one of London’s most striking projects and deserves a grade II-listing status. We must surely all do our utmost to ensure that we do not destroy yet another beautiful example of post-modernist architecture.’

In his defence of the existing building Palumbo also criticised Buckley Gray Yeoman for ‘failing’ to understand the context of the original application, which was subject to a public inquiry and judicial review.

Palumbo added: ‘Had Buckley Gray Yeoman taken the time and trouble to acquaint themselves with the content of the Public Inquiry that follows the planning application to the City Corporation of London for the design by Sir James Stirling; and the further Judicial Inquiry that was finally settled by the decision of the House of Lords, they would see, unpalatable to them as it would have been, that the forensic examination to which each and eevry element of the design was put reveals the present proposals fo Buckley Gray Yeoman and the assumprtions upon which they are based, as shallow, empty, and of no account.

Palumbo and Hadid’s letters have added weight to the Twentieth Century Society’s listing bit, which has also ‘strongly objected’ to the City of London over the proposals for the 1997 pink and yellow stone-clad landmark.

The controversial scheme will overhaul the existing shop fronts, create a new entrance to the offices, and increase the amount of light reaching the first and second floors.

Palumbo completed the project five years after architect Stirling’s death in 1992, the building would have to be awarded a grade II*-listed status by Historic England as it cannot be considered for anything lesser due to its age. Buildings normally have to be over 30 years old to be eligible for listing - unless they are considered exceptional and under threat.



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