Richard Rogers and David Chipperfield have lent their support to a campaign against proposals to move the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art from its current home in east London
London Metropolitan University is planning to relocate the architecture school and other facilities from Aldgate to create a larger campus at its existing base in Holloway, Islington.
In a letter published in Sunday’s Observer, leading figures in British design – including the two architects - called for a rethink.
It said: ‘Universities are not silos but play a dynamic role in their communities.
‘Threats to move the Cass, dubbed the Aldgate Bauhaus, out of Aldgate would destroy its rich ecology and diminish the diversity and opportunities of its East End location.’
The signatories - among them Tate’s Nicholas Serota and artist Anish Kapoor - added that The Cass inhabited one of the last architectural assets of London Guildhall University, a 1960s building opposite the Whitechapel Gallery.
It is being sold to help finance a £125 million project to consolidate the university’s facilities on a single campus.
A statement from the university said: ‘Our Cass faculty of art, architecture and design has been instrumental in developing an arts community in East London for many years.
‘We are now looking forward to building on that success and bringing it to Islington, where it will have a similarly positive impact on the borough.
‘The Cass is globally respected for running projects around the world, and we believe that reputation will endure wherever the faculty is based.’
Previous story (AJ 05.11.15)
Hundreds turn out to protest against Cass move
More than 200 staff and students from the Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design took to the street to protest against plans to shut down its east London home
London Metropolitan University’s Central House building in Whitechapel was put on lockdown at lunchtime today (5 November) as placard-brandishing demonstrators gathered outside to denounce the school’s proposed relocation to the university’s main campus at Holloway Road, north London.
Under the plans approved by the Met’s board of governors last month, the Cass School of Architecture’s current Commercial Road home would be sold off along with the remainder of the university’s East End estate, with proceeds going towards a £125m revamp of the Holloway Road campus.
In an e-mail to staff announcing the proposals, vice-chancellor John Raftery said student numbers would fall from the current 12,000 to 10,000 students. He said the move, which is not expected to take place until 2017 at the earliest, would lead to some courses being ‘discontinued’.
More than 2,300 people have now signed a petition calling on university management to scrap the proposals.
Speaking to the protesters, artist and Cass associate professor Bob and Roberta Smith claimed uprooting The Cass from the East End would be hugely damaging and that London Met was the ‘most diverse university in Britain’.
‘We must not lose the link with Tower Hamlets,’ he said of the faculty’s host London borough.
‘Places like this acknowledge the depth of commitment of London Metropolitan University to the young people of the East End of London.’
Smith – whose real name is Patrick Brill – subsequently said that London Met’s board of governors had yet to disclose the alternative options it considered before choosing to proceed with its One University, One Campus project.
He said that there was a risk the Cass would ‘wither and die’ if its schools were moved from their current homes.
Selini Serefoglou was among those attending the protest. The digital architecture and manufacture MA student said her course was earmarked to end as part of London Met’s proposals, prompting concerns about how future employers would view the qualification.
‘I don’t expect the quality of tuition to suffer because of the proposals,’ she said. ‘But if people know the degree has stopped when we’re looking for work, it might affect how they feel about the qualifications we’ve achieved.’
Statement from the London Metropolitan University
We are excited about our One Campus One Community project which will see us invest £125m to create new and improved facilities for all of our faculties, including The Cass, at our Islington campus.
The Cass is not closing, it is moving to better, specialised facilities in an area of London which will benefit from the creative force it will bring with it.
In joint research with the Students’ Union earlier this year, 65 per cent of all London Met students, across all of our faculties, said they would prefer a one campus university.
65% of students said they’d prefer a one campus university
The Cass will continue to offer a wide portfolio of Art, Architecture and Design courses including, but not limited to, Fine Art (BA) photography, film, visual communications, furniture, interior design and architecture.
The University has been very clear that all students will have access to the facilities they need during their studies. The University also guarantees that facilities for students in The Cass will be equal to or better than those they currently enjoy.
The Cass is globally respected for running projects around the world, and we believe that reputation will endure wherever the Faculty is based.
Previous story (AJ 15.10.15)