Published  12/01/2007

Redundant Commonwealth Centre with Potential

The Commonwealth Arts Centre in South Kensington is still under threat of early demolition. The official reason given is that it leaks. The fact is that it doesn't do so. Three years ago, that was all put right by architect, Brian Avery, who has built up something of a name in remedying any such defects permanently. With undue haste, the trustees of the institute have taken the constitutional slip road of a special act of parliament to demolish their charge. In fact, as far as it goes, this is a blatant attempt to de-list the building, a heinous crime in architectural conservation circles. Who is promoting the bill? Surprise, surprise: Tessa Jowell, Minister of Sport and Culture, fresh from the joys of the burgeoning budget overruns of the 2012 Olympic site. The Institute have brought in Norman Foster to assess ways of redeveloping the site, but he is believed to favour retaining a core of the building, being one who recognises the quality of the original structure. His partner, Spencer de Gray, considers that the famous 'tent' form can be saved with such a scheme. While Peter Carolin, lately Professor of Architecture at Cambridge University, acknowledges, on behalf of the Institute for whom he reported maintenance problems, given Brian Avery's technical report, clearly these can be solved.

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