Architecture Update: A home for art above the Thames?

LONDON could have its first covered bridge since the 18th century if a proposal in the City wins approval. One of four sites being considered by the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) for a new headquarters is a scheme to house much of the ICA, which has far outgrown its premises in the Mall, on a new bridge across the Thames at Blackfriars.

The institute's director, Mik Flood, says he is looking for a design that is 'technically advanced, environmentally aware and highly flexible'. The ICA's consultants, Alsop & Stormer, are confident that the surviving piers of the former railway bridge, which was demolished in the Eighties, could be used as foundations for a spectacular design as well as providing an additional footbridge close to the old Bankside power station, where the Tate is to build a new museum of modern art.

The new bridge would include exhibition space and cafe/

restaurants while cinemas and performance spaces would be built at either end.

While pointing out that there is a height restriction of a single storey in this location to protect views of St Paul's, the City Corporation concedes that the scheme 'has some merits', because there is adequate riverside land for redevelopment. Both the ICA and the architect, Will Alsop, remain confident of the feasibility of the scheme. A report recommending a site with details of costs, estimated to be around pounds 15m- pounds 20m, partly financed by the Millennium Fund, will be presented to the ICA's management board in mid-September.

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