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Saturday19 August 2017

Chipperfield hits back at Geffrye Museum decision

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Committee has ‘torpedoed’ museum’s plans, practice says

David Chipperfield Architects has attacked the way Hackney’s planning committee unexpectedly rejected its proposals for the Geffrye Museum.

Communications director Rik Nys described parts of the meeting as “bizarre” and said the decision had “torpedoed” the entire scheme because lottery funding was effectively contingent on planning consent.

David Chipperfield

Source: Anna Winston

David Chipperfield

The committee overruled its officers on Wednesday night to throw out the plans for an £18.9 million extension which would have included the controversial demolition of a former Victorian pub.

Members said they were unconvinced the extension “wouldn’t cause substantial harm” to the 18th-century almshouses that house the museum.

Geffrye director David Dewing said they were “bitterly disappointed” and were considering their options, including whether to appeal.

He said the decision “denies the essential progress which keeps great cities vibrant and dynamic”.

The Marquis Of Lansdowne

The Marquis Of Lansdowne as it was

Nys said it was too early to decide whether to appeal but he criticised the “naive level” of the committee’s debate, in particular objections to a covered walkway.

“It was rather bizarre that the chairman made it clear he was against the scheme before asking for a vote,” he said.

“My personal understanding is that they were then struggling to justify their decision. No one came forward with a very clear answer.”

He complained that the chairman had only visited the museum once, when it was shut, and described as “very strange” one officer’s declaration that he preferred a previous version of the scheme.

“[Hackney] have really torpedoed the whole initiative,” he said. “For the museum it will be something that will take a long time to get over, on many levels.

“It’s very sad that so many people have worked for four years so intensively and with so many different organisations for them to be rebuffed on the basis of overly simplistic representations.”

Nys said the museum was too “impoverished” to go back to the drawing board, effectively scuppering the entire project.The Heritage Lottery Fund gave initial support for a £10.9 million bid in 2011, including £518,500 of development funding. The museum was due to submit its full funding application this year.

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Readers' comments (11)

  • Wouldn't a dignified silence have spoken greater volumes than petty name-calling?

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  • Hackney will lose out if the museum does not go ahead.

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  • It's blatantly a populist, knee-jerk reaction on the part of the council to the mild Internet Drama that broke out over that grotty little pile of bricks on the corner of the site. The planners should be ashamed of themselves for using this as a PR opportunity.

    Incidentally, Simon, I see no names being called. Maybe we read different articles.

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  • Kirsten Elliott

    Hackney may lose out if it this plan does go ahead because a lot of building and history professionals like myself are so disgusted at the way the trustees have tried to bulldozer it through, we will no longer visit. If they had come up with a less bombastic plan, in keeping with the original aims - a museum of furniture, reflecting the history of the working classes who once lived here - instead of these big, bumptious ideas, they might have got their planning consent. The 1998 extension was a model of its kind -modern, well-thought out but courteous to the original- why the sudden change in attitude? What's gone wrong at the museum, is my question, not what's gone wrong with planning.

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  • D Ingram

    I have not yet seen the written decision but I am led to believe from comments from a number who were there that there was no objection in principle to the loss of either the pub building or its use on the site, and that the application was turned down on the basis that the new design was not good enough to justify the loss of a building making a positive contribution to a conservation area, as well as the effect of other aspects of teh design affecting the fabric and views of the almshouses themselves. English Heritage made the comment that it was 'finely balanced'. The Georgian Group and Victorian Society made their views clear and were against the new design.

    However, if it seems the Geffrye have folded their tents with this admission from Chipperfields that they do not have the funds to 'have another go', there is the opportunity for a pub operator, or perhaps the Spitalfields Trust to attempt a rescue after all, a move which would be welcomed by CAMRA. We live in hope.

    Dale Ingram
    Historic Environment & Planning Consultant and CAMRA's London Region Pubs Protection Adviser.

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  • Kirsten, I am not sure if they are missing you already. If you allowed yourself one more visit you would find a museum 'devoted to the history of the home', including some quite bourgeois homes. I see nothing big bumptious bombastic or bulldozering in the plans. Please , next time you start a campaign, take time to understand the proposal. You may also reflect on what you have now helped to destroy.

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  • @Kirsten Elliott
    the geffrye museum is actually a museum detailing the emergence of the middle class through their living spaces, not a museum of the working class.

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  • This application was not a million miles away from being acceptable to planners, conservation officers, (some) heritage groups and the committee. I suspect what irked the planners and committee in particular was the lack of compromise on a couple of points around the corner design and the details of the walkway. The officers's report, recommending approval ended:

    "Officers have sought revisions to the scheme to change the scale and materiality of the proposed extension so that it better reflects its context within the conservation area, but the applicants are convinced of the merit of the scheme as proposed."

    I know of no-one at that meeting or within the consultees that does not support the principle of a larger museum. LB Hackney supported an enlarged museum, but quite simple didn't want it at *any* cost.

    I guess, strategically, the applicant was either ill advised to hold out on these points or just plain got it wrong.

    It would be a shame if it was all for nought, but whether, in the face of this bruising, Chipperfield is prepared to pick up his pen again remains to be seen.

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  • That's £10m or so of HLF money that can be used for other projects, and the Geffrye can go on doing what it does well - small-scale, intimate spaces, a delightful garden and a good education programme. Why must every director have plans for world (or sector) domination? The Spitalfields/CAMRA suggestion is very attractive.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Peter Zumthor has a beard.

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