Preservation vs. New Build

I have just been listening to the latest episode of the Londown (https://open-city.org.uk/the-londown), an excellent weekly programme about what is happening in architecture. This week is concerned with Michael Gove’s decision to call in the plans to demolish Marks and Spencer’s building in Oxford Street. It does feel as if there could be a mood swing in attitudes towards new building: this decision to protect a perfectly good if not especially distinguished 1920s commercial building instead of replacing it with a deeply undistinguished new building; the decision to appoint the most conservation-minded of the entries to the competition to re-do the Barbican; the apparent success of a scheme to convert Hammonds of Hull, a department store, into a food market; these suggest efforts to look for imaginative new uses for existing buildings instead of just demolishing them. Now, it just needs Gove to call in the planned monstrous development by Make next door to the National Theatre to demonstrate his support for this new policy direction. It would be condemned for its conservatism; but it is about the future as much as the past. The ITV scheme by Make is a 1950s dream of the future by a 70-year old architect. Younger architects have a much more imaginative attitude towards re-use, refurbishment and protection of the planet, as well as of old buildings. It feels as if Gove sees this and supports it.

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