The Commonwealth Institute in London has been torn down to establish the Design Museum instead. The Institute, which was an important post-war building in the British capital, was added by the UK heritage body to the list of the demolished iconic buildings of the 20th century. The building was constructed in the 1960s and was revamped afterwards by John Pawson and OMA.
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“All that is left of this magnificent post-war masterpiece is the roof structure over the central pavilion, which had to be propped up during reconstruction as everything beneath it was demolished,” commented the director of Twentieth Century Society, Catherine Croft. The society is a British charity that aims to safeguard British design and architecture.
“So, to all intents and purposes this Grade II* building has been lost,” Croft added.
The building’s original design was created by RMJM or (Robert Matthew and Stirrat Johnson-Marshall), and it resided at Kensington High Street, west of London.
The iconic building used to feature a tiered interior, a saddle-shaped roof, and several magnificent terraces. The edifice started facing problems shortly after its inauguration in 1962 and the sky-rocketing restorations caused it to be sold in the end.
The repairs, which were done by Pawson and OMA in 2016, came after long years of neglect and resulted in preserving the exterior while entirely changing the interior.
“The interior central podium, flying staircase, elliptical balconies, ancillary library block and verdant landscaping with flagpole walkway were as integral to the design of the Commonwealth Institute as the hyperbolic¬ paraboloid roof, yet they have all been lost,” Catherine Croft stated.
“This is not the fault of the Design Museum or their architects, but The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Historic England who both failed to ensure it got the protection it deserved,” she added.
“The site is now swamped by luxury flats. This was definitely not the appropriate conservation-¬led approach that a Grade II* listed site of international importance deserved, especially one that is also a registered park and garden in a conservation area.”
Other buildings that were heritage listed but were eventually torn down are the Brynmawr rubber factory in Wales and Pimlico Comprehensive School in London.
“The most worrying aspect of these cases is that they demonstrate that even listing is not reliably protecting C20 buildings,” Croft explained.