Saturday19 August 2017

Campaigners claim victory in battle for No1 Poultry

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Buckley Gray Yeoman’s watered-down proposals approved

Campaigners trying to save James Stirling’s No1 Poultry from “ignorant and insensitive” alterations by Buckley Gray Yeoman are claiming victory after a watered-down planning application was approved by the City.

The most “objectionable” elements of the original proposal were dropped after a campaign led by the Twentieth Century Society and many of the original architects who worked on the project after Stirling’s death.

Plans to fill in the colonnades along Poultry and Queen Victoria Street to enlarge the ground-floor retail units were abandoned after a huge outcry in the revised application.

Now the main changes are enlarging windows, including those in the inner rotunda and turning a shop into the main entrance to the offices. This is a significant change to the grand entrance sequence which was intended to lead through the building from the Bank apex and up an internal tunnel.

The Twentieth Century Society, whose listing bid was rejected in December, is still awaiting the outcome of its appeal which – if approved soon – could still have an impact on the consented work.

Director Catherine Croft, who has described No1 Poultry as one of England’s best examples of post-modernism, said: “We’re very pleased that the owners of the building have recognised its architectural and historic interest and modified their proposals accordingly.

“They listened to the debate about the importance of the building which was led by the Twentieth Century Society.”

Chris Boyce, now design director of CJCT Studios, started his career at James Stirling Michael Wilford and Partners in the 1990s and worked on No1 Poultry.

He agreed, saying: “Altering a great work, by a lost genius, is a risky business. The disappointing thing here was the arrogant lack of respect for the work, and for Stirling, shown by BGY.

“The proposals now are diluted and more acceptable to those who objected.

“The building is unique, joyful, and was a singular vision of both Lord Palumbo and Stirling, any alteration should be subtle and subservient to that vision.”

Palumbo, who commissioned the building, weighed into the battle to stop the original plans by accusing the architects of “ignorance, insensitivity, and a blithe contempt that is breathtaking in its gall”.

Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Charles Jencks also objected and 19 members of the original design team wrote to Historic England demanding it be listed and criticising the “insulting” plans.



Readers' comments (4)

  • Clichy

    This is good news but I can't get too excited as I do not regard nr1 Poultry as one of Stirling's finest projects.

    I can however get very excited about the proposals by Avanti Architects and Oxford University for the Florey Building.

    This is one of Stirling's finest and it is already Grade II listed. Yet Avanti and Oxford are seeking to destroy the coherence of the design substantively.

    I would suggest the Twentieth Century Society put their energies behind stopping this happening.

    Follow this link to view the proposed changes.


    With thanks to SSMN for originally providing the link.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    SituatAnist - you might be surprised and disappointed to find that the Twentieth Century Society actually supports the Avanti proposals. There is a problem about the Twentieth Century Society.

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  • Clichy

    SSMN - I returned to your link to the Oxford planning site and read the documentation. I was indeed disappointed by the Twentieth Century Societiy's, at best, ambivalent response to the proposal by Avanti Architects.
    The changes to the elevations, the major changes to the ground floor, the execrable annexe building and the glazed link between the Florey and the Annexe are unacceptable to such a major building.The loss of the mezzanine rooms is totally against Stirling's concept and intent.
    As an aside why do architects believe glass is invisible, the glazed link will be as visible as stone.
    I fail to understand why the great and the good, including their lordships, have not led the opposition to this desicration of a listed heritage building.
    Nr1 Poultry is not a great building in Stirling's Ouvre, the Florey is the culmination of his great three red buildings period, has heritage status and is threatened by the intervention of Avanti Architects and Oxford University.
    Oxford University has form for architectural ignorance, look at the 2014 Carbuncle Cup.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    @ SituatAnist - well said. I hope others will take note. Let's not go thinking that the Twentieth Century Society can be relied on for anything.The trouble is that it seems to think some practices, e.g. Avanti, are above criticism and can do nothing wrong. In its past incarnation Avanti was a fairly small practice with a reputation for sensitively restoring modern buildings but now (judging by its website) there seems to have been a corporate takeover with its new owners hoping to make us of Avanti's former good reputation to push though really dreadful schemes like this one, which ruins a major building by one of our greatest architect. And the Twentieth Century Society seem to think it's just lovely because it has the Avanti label. Not good enough, Twentieth Century Society.

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