Demolition threat to industrial landmark faces demolition thr

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The Independent Online
ROGER DOBSON

A factory described as one of Britain's most important post-war industrial buildings is threatened with demolition.

An application is being made this week to pull down the former Dunlop factory at Brynmawr, Gwent, a Grade II* listed building, which was not only built to a revolutionary design between 1946 and 1951, but was also conceived as a way of fundamentally improving workplace conditions for employees.

The huge domed building, designed by an architect's co-operative, became a mecca for the world's leading architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright. The 207,000 sq ft factory, which has been empty since 1982, was built of reinforced concrete and the roof consists of nine huge domes with circular holes acting as skylights.

The application by the receivers controlling the factory site to demolish the building comes only days after Cadw, the Welsh heritage agency, described it in a new guide to the best buildings in Wales as one of the top seven modern buildings of the principality.

The Twentieth Century Society, one of 50 objectors to demolition, says the building is unique. "The buildings are recognised as socially, technically and aesthetically innovative and built to a brief which required a new attitude to industrial management, and working conditions.

"The architects were idealistic and aimed at a new standards for industrial building.

"It captivated a generation of architects and has been compared to St Paul's Cathedral and the Royal Festival Hall. It remains a beautiful and impressive space and its significance as an experiment in industrial democracy remains."

Architect Richard Parnaby said: "It was very innovative at a time when most factories were unheated sheds. It had only one entrance so that all grades had to go in the same way. It also had only one restaurant for managers and workers. There were medical facilities, and the whole place was built for the people using it."

The building has been unused since 1982 and several proposals for an alternative use have failed.

The Save Britain's Heritage group also opposes demolition and points out that it was the first post-war building in Britain to be listed. The group describes its status as "of international repute" and suggests that an application could be made for lottery money to help revitalise the site.

The application to demolish and replace it with housing and shops, made by the receivers acting for two companies, goes before Blaenau Gwent Borough Council on Thursday. A report says "demolition should be recommended to the Secretary of State for approval together with outline planning application for redevelopment".

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