English Heritage warms to the V&A Boilerhouse

"Extremely hideous" or a "watershed in public taste", the pounds 67m Boilerhouse extension planned for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London moved a big step nearer reality yesterday when it received the backing of English Heritage.

Daniel Libeskind's provocatively modern design now has the support of the two bodies whose opinions matter most - English Heritage, the government's statutory adviser, and the Royal Fine Art Commission, concerned primarily with architecture.

Slimmed down from the massive tile-covered structure unveiled last May, the futuristic building will break the monotony of Exhibition Road, South Kensington, and provide the V&A with additional galleries, an education centre and cafes.

"Ten years ago it would have been inconceivable that a design of this originality would be applauded as widely as Daniel Libeskind's design has been," said Sir Jocelyn Stevens, chairman of English Heritage, announcing the decision. "Perhaps we are witnessing a watershed in public taste when design quality of this kind is appreciated and greeted so enthusiastically."

Alan Borg, director of the V&A, said planning permission would probably be sought from Kensington and Chelsea council in the autumn.

But the extension, consisting of conflicting planes, has influential critics. Giles Worsley, editor of Perspectives On Architecture, called it "extremely hideous and inappropriate"- a charge rejected by Sir Jocelyn.

A survey by the museum, based on the original bulkier design, found public opinion divided. Of more than 1,000 people who commented during a six-week exhibition, 48 per cent said they were against the Libeskind Boilerhouse, 40 per cent were in favour and 11 per cent were in support, but with reservations.

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