Minimalist architect's 'mausoleum-like' flats anger rich neighbours

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The Independent Online

The minimalist architect John Pawson has been thwarted by his fellow residents in one of London's most elegant and fashionable areas after proposing a starkly modern block of flats be built on a landmark site.

Plans for the sleek and angular five-storey Landsdowne Lodge on the borders of Notting Hill, in which Mr Pawson and his wife were planning to set up home, have been withdrawn after the prospective neighbours described it as resembling a slab of "ice cream" and a "mausoleum".

Planners for the borough of Kensington and Chelsea threatened to throw out the plans. Mr Pawson has now gone back to the drawing board to reapply for planning permission on behalf of the developer, the Grainger Trust. His revised scheme for the site on the corner of Landsdowne Crescent and Ladbroke Grove will reflect the character of the area and yet retain a modern aspect.

James Fielder, project director at the Grainger Trust, said: "We've agreed alterations to the site. We are obviously keen to pursue this."

Mr Pawson is, perhaps, the best-known practitioner of minimalism in Britain ­ his oeuvre has featured everything from monasteries to shops. "Mr White" (as he is often called) lives nearby and does not permit any clutter in his own home.

"We are going to make some changes after taking on board the planners' concerns," he said. "You can't please everyone... Cities are changing and it's not about having horses and carriages anymore."

But residents of the pristine, tree-lined streets where it was to have been built are not convinced. Lady Anson, a cousin of the Queen, who lives near by, described the design as looking like a "slab of Wall's ice cream".

Jill Manthos, of Landsdowne Crescent, said: "It's just an eyesore, it's so ugly."

Offers to clad the building in Portland Stone or coat it in stucco instead of the originally planned yellow concrete did not satisfy objectors.

Planners said it would be out of scale and "harm the appearance and character of the conservation area", which lies in a district where the typical property price is at least £1m. Support from the Millennium Dome architect, Lord Rogers of Riverside, who called the flats an "exceptional piece of architectural design", left officials unmoved. Twenty-one residents sent letters of objection, describing the building as "box-like", "discordant" and like a "mausoleum".

Currently, former police flats stand on the site. Consultants working for its immediate neighbour, Alastair Villiers, who is appalled by the proposal, have claimed that Mr Pawson's design would be two and a half times the size of the existing 1950s block.

"If one is going to go through the absolute horror of demolition against one's home, then it may as well be for something that looks nice," Mr Villiers said.

One Landsdowne Crescent inhabitant cautiously lent his support. Jeremy Lever, also an architect, said: "It looks like quite a reasonable building to me. I would rather it was for people with lower incomes. This area is becoming one which relies on people with an awful lot of money."

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