Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Architecture: A look at what's on the drawing boards for 1993

RATHER than bemoaning their chances of ever designing a building again, architects with time on their hands see 1993 as the year of the architectural competition. And competitions of this kind come no bigger than the one being suggested by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for the rebuilding of Windsor Castle. The Prince of Wales would perhaps prefer to canvass opinion on the future of the fabric of the castle at his own Institute of Architecture, which celebrates its first birthday next month. The institute is to publish its own magazine, already nicknamed 'Carbuncle', in the spring.

One competition that has caught the imagination of architects throughout Europe is for the design of the Millenium Tower in Glasgow. A selection of some of the 352 entries go on show in the city next month before coming to London. Another millenial project is Manchester's bid to host the Olympics in 2000. Although the competition to design the main stadium has been dogged by controversy after the resignation of Sir Richard Rogers and the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, a designer for the project will be announced very soon. Sir Norman Foster & Partners and Arup Associates are thought to be the main contenders.

The results of a very different kind of competition, that for the new visitors' centre at Stonehenge, opens at the RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1 (071-580 5533), on 6 January. Visitors will be able to judge for themselves if the winning scheme, by Edward Cullinan Associates, and much favoured by Jocelyn Stevens, chairman of English Heritage, the organisers of the competition, was the right choice. The other five short-listed designs will also be on show.

January should bring an announcement from the Ministry of Defence concerning its plans to build an artillery museum next to Stonehenge. The MoD, which revealed its plans shortly before Christmas, has forced English Heritage to delay the public inquiry into the proposed visitors' centre (due to have started in March) for six months while it investigates the possible effects of opening up previously restricted MoD land.

The beginning of the year should also see a number of major planning decisions being taken by Michael Howard, Secretary of State for the Environment. The most important of these will be to give or refuse permission for the construction of the massive theme park/office scheme at Paternoster Square alongside St Paul's Cathedral, designed in an overblown, pseudo- Classical style as if to make a mockery of Christopher Wren's major work. The City of London Corporation approved the office development in October, but because the site is considered to be one of national importance, the matter has been referred to the Secretary of State.

Meanwhile, the City of London Corporation remains determined to stop Lord Palumbo from demolishing the Mappin & Webb building, designed by the Belcher brothers in 1870 in a Venetian Gothic style and facing the Mansion House. Lord Palumbo has been trying to redevelop the site since 1959, his latest proposal being a giant Post- Modern complex designed by the late Sir James Stirling. The Corporation, which has consistently opposed Lord Palumbo, is still able to hold up the project over a vexed question of ownership of the actual land.

Another project facing a slow, if not aborted, start is the proposed dollars 21bn Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong, designed by Sir Norman Foster. Delays have been caused by disputes between the Chinese and British authorities and from the threat of competition from a much cheaper rival airport in nearby Shenzhen, in mainland China. The December issue of the magazine China Inc reported: 'There are growing signs that the massive Chek Lap Kok project could end up as one of Asia's worst planning disasters.'

Nearer to home, Sir Norman has several large London projects on the drawing board, none of which look as if it will be started in 1993; these include the redevelopment of the King's Cross Goods Yard site, a new office tower on the site of what was Spitalfields Market and another at London Wall. All three depend on the economy coming out of recession and the demand for office space in the City of London soaring. As Martin Pawley's article explains above, this seems unlikely for some considerable time.

Most of the top league architects face an equally testing new year, with their major projects put on what looks like permanent hold. These include the elaborate face-lift planned for the South Bank arts complex by Terry Farrell. The South Bank Board has, however, agreed to demolish the elevated Sixties walkways that characterise the complex some time in the coming year.

The South Bank Group, representing local and cultural interest groups, remains opposed to any demolition on the site; it has recently been awarded a pounds 7,500 grant by the Arts Council to mount an exhibition that it hopes will demonstrate why both the Hayward Gallery (which staged the highly successful Richard Long and Art of Ancient Mexico exhibitions earlier this year) and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, threatened with demolition, should be preserved.

English Heritage, which recommended listing the South Bank complex, faces a difficult 1993 as its future role is debated following a consultation paper recommending, among other things, the end of its London division's responsibility for the fate of the capital's many Grade II listed buildings. Without English Heritage's watchful eye, many of these will face an uncertain future. The Royal Fine Art Commission, which helped to persuade the Government to rescue the former Greater London Council's Historic Buildings Division, said recently that it is 'strongly opposed to any diminuation of the powers of English Heritage'.

Peter Brooke, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, has announced that from 1993 churches (other than the Church of England, which has its own well-established code of control) will have to subscribe to a code of practice if they wish to alter either the inside or the outside of their buildings.

Meanwhile, Mr Brooke made an appearance at a seminar organised by the Architecture Foundation just before Christmas. The foundation wants to move from its current premises in the basement of the Economist building in St James's to the Museum of Mankind in Burlington Gardens, Piccadilly. The foundation needs larger premises as it strengthens its role in presenting new initiatives in architecture and planning to a wider public.

The RIBA also had Mr Brooke to lunch before Christmas to discuss the future of Windsor Castle, among other topics. The RIBA's greatest popular achievement in 1992 was the exhibition of the Spanish engineer Santiago Calatrava, which attracted the public on a scale not seen at the RIBA's London headquarters for some years. The RIBA believes an initiative on Windsor Castle could be even more popular.