Controversial Cambridge history faculty becomes a listed building

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's most controversial postwar buildings, Sir James Stirling's history faculty at Cambridge University, has been given legal protection by the Government.

The building, which was given Grade II listing yesterday, became notorious because an extensive glass roof over its library trapped sunlight and raised the temperature. It also leaked, risking book collections.

Detractors said it was built the wrong way around, by Sir James, who died in 1992. The history faculty, completed in 1968, was among five postwar buildings given listed status by the Arts minister Alan Howarth yesterday.

They included St Luke's Church in Peckham, south London, of Byzantine style and designed by Arthur Martin in 1953, and two houses at Grant-chester Road, Cambridge, built from concrete blocks by Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson.

Elain Harwood, the post-war listing inspector for English Heritage, admitted that the inclusion of the history faculty would provoke controversy.

Its flaws provoked debate in the mid-1980s when Cambridge University considered its demolition. It was saved, and air conditioning units added.

St Luke's Church was the most conservative choice for listing. "It's very much like a 1930s church by the same architect but because it was built so soon after the war, when materials were in short supply, it seems a lot more austere."

The list was marred by a dispute between the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and English Heritage, after the department admitted it wrongly said two other buildings had gained listed status.

Officials at English Heritage were angry when the department claimed a former car showroom in Lincolnshire, and Pall Mall Court in Manchester, had been given Grade II status.

The department conceded it failed to announce that a rare Catholic church, the Chapel of the Most Holy Name at St John Moore Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, had been listed this year.