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Saturday02 August 2014

A good day for post-war buildings

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With much post-war architecture under threat, it is cheering to see the Commonwealth Institute beginning a new life

Ellis Woodman

Ellis Woodman- Executive Editor

Work started this week on the transformation of the former Commonwealth Institute into a new home for the Design Museum.

It is welcome news for the museum, whose programme has always been constrained by its accommodation at Shad Thames. After the move it will have space to show its permanent collection and should no longer have to close while swapping over exhibitions.

It is also great news for the Common-wealth Institute building. Built for £5 7s 0d per sq ft in 1962, Stirrat Johnson-Marshall’s most celebrated project was also one of its cheapest. Conceived more as a tent in the park than the listed monument it has become, its technical failings have become more pronounced with every passing year.

A 2004 report recommended demolition. However, thanks to Stanhope’s development of part of the site, the building will have a future after all. With so much architecture of the post-war era under threat, the news that it has escaped the wrecking ball presents real cause for cheer.

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