Adjaye proposals should be scrapped or relocated according to International Council on Memorials and Sites
The international heritage body that advises Unesco on World Heritage Sites is standing by its objections to David Adjaye’s controversial UK Holocaust Memorial, it has emerged.
Icomos – short for the International Council on Memorials and Sites – last year expressed concerns about the impact of the memorial, designed by Adjaye and Ron Arad for Victoria Tower Gardens immediately south of the Palace of Westminster.
Although the scheme underwent further pre-submission tweaks, and has been amended since the plans were lodged with Westminster council in January, Icomos has now said that nothing the project team has done fundamentally addresses its concerns.
In a submission to Westminter planners, the organisation said that some of the arguments and supporting statements for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government-backed project are “contradictory and unconvincing”.
It is calling for the project to be relocated to another site, or – if the team is insistent on proceeding with Victoria Tower Gardens – that the “visually intrusive” Adjaye proposals be dropped.
Icomos said it recognised the “architectural value and the professional level” of Adjaye’s submitted documentation. But the body said it was “unable to identify changes that demonstrate its previous observations have been substantively taken into account”.
In March last year it said that as a “masterpiece of artistic construction” there was a need for the ensemble of buildings that make up the Westminster World Heritage Site to be seen in a “dignified setting with sufficient space to view their silhouette.
“The proposed memorial would not enhance the setting and, as in iconic building, would be seen as competing with the Palace of Westminster, not supporting it,” Icomos said. “This observation remains valid.”
The organisation told Westminster that while the planning documentation highlighted the “strong architectural character of the memorial”, it also included commentary that the commentary “diminishes its visual impact on its environment”.
Icomos also observed that while much of the UK Holocaust Memorial proposals were underground, it was not all underground and the learning centre element would result in an “artificial relief” on the park.
“As located and designed, the learning centre would give rise to a negative visual impact on the property’s integrity, and an adverse effect on the undisturbed appearance of the World Heritage property,” it said.
Icomos also takes exception to the proposals’ impact on views of the Palace of Westminster from Lambeth Bridge, the likely need for enhanced security measures at the memorial, and on the predicted loss of trees.
The body said design excellence of the proposals was “not an issue” but rather the proposals’ “adverse impact” on the existing qualities of the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church – which together form the Westminster World Heritage Site.
It concluded: “While Icomos strongly supports the idea of a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London, it considers that the proposed monument and its underground rooms … would compromise an important part of its immediate setting and key views.
“It is therefore advised that the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre be relocated.
“It is further advised that, even if the project is not relocated, it should not proceed according to the current visually intrusive design.”
Westminster has yet to set a target determination date for the proposals, but the authority currently notes that it has received more than 4,000 comments on the scheme.
Earlier this month the opponents of the proposals – including architect Barbara Weiss – accused the government of trying to manipulate the consultation process on the latest incarnation of the proposals via a firm hired to promote the scheme.
It said the Big Ideas consultancy was bulk-posting supportive comments on the Westminster council planning website in an attempt to overshadow months of substantive opposition to the museum being built in Victoria Tower Gardens.