Architecture Update: Marco Polo's voyage into bad design

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The Independent Culture
THE Marco Polo building at Battersea, Quinlan Terry's Howard Building for Downing College, Cambridge, and the Holiday Inn in Cambridge have been singled out as examples of bad new buildings in a Royal Fine Art Commission report published this week. What Makes a Good Building? was commissioned by Peter Brooke, the National Heritage Secretary, and is a sober attempt to identify precisely why some buildings succeed in terms of design and others fail.

Buildings it approves of include Bracken House, the remodelled former Financial Times building near St Paul's Cathedral, and the forthcoming parliamentary building above Westminster Underground station - both designed by Michael Hopkins, a member of the commission. Others include 62 Cornhill in the City of London, an office building designed by the Rolfe Judd Partnership, which marries modern and traditional styles; the Financial Times printing works in Docklands by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners; the Economist Building by Peter and Alison Smithson; and an office building in Old Marylebone Road, London, which the commission criticised at the time of its design.

Mr Brooke said he commissioned the report because he wanted to encourage well designed buildings, although it remains to be seen how much of the commission's carefully crafted prose will strike a chord with the public, particularly members of planning committees - most of whom would prefer more buildings like the Marco Polo, not fewer.

'What Makes a Good Building?' is available from the RIBA Bookshop, 66 Portland Place, London W1 (071-580 5533), pounds 9.95

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