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Unpicking Amin Taha’s Clerkenwell Close fiasco


Aye to all the above, and it's not just axe-grinding councillors who are to blame. My experience around numerous county and district councils across the country is that over 90% of all applications now are decided by officers under delegated powers, but the staffing churn rate is such that any project can have a succession of authoritarian planners with no design training, or "conservation & design officers" with an "MA" in historic buildings achieved in no more than six weeks on a course in a building museum (also with no design content whatever), yet these people have ultimate power to enforce (largely through the cost of delays) their own subjective opinions. I've even had a conservation officer claim that her opinions were not subjective as she was a "fully qualified officer of the council". Wow! Abject genuflection! And protestations from RIBA come there none. After block after block of dismal flat rectangles or tortured 'ikons' of whacky shape-making, fed to us weekly as 'architecture' but in reality merely colossal ego-boosters or wallet-expanders for their commissioners, Taha's building made my heart leap with joy to see such mastery of structure and construction in a natural material while making an exhuberant and decorative expression of that material. There is no problem with thoughtful revivalism or 'pastiche' in the proper sense of the term, all also subject to rejection by planners, but then neither is there any reason not to evolve age-old material techniques into a new building that is far finer than the grim average imposed by planning departments everywhere. Taha has created something special here, and we need to be out in force, in support of its retention and his and our integrity as designers. I just hope the Appeal Inspector has some vestige of design understanding - not guaranteed by any means.

Posted date

1 October, 2018

Posted time

11:01 am


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