Pompidou designer says people should live in glass houses

THE co-designer of the world famous Pompidou Centre in Paris has joined the fight to save a unique glass home in Belsize Park.

Architect Richard Rogers has described the building, divided into two homes, as “beautifully proportioned” and “elegant”.

The world-famous deisgner will be writing to Camden Council next week objecting to a planning application which would see them demolished.

‘‘I watched them being built as I lived in the neighbourhood. It is my belief that this house should be listed as it has special architectural merit,’’ he said, adding that it was a rare example in Britain of a ‘‘beautifully-proportioned, transparent, lightweight, single storey, steel-framed house.’’

Developer Papa Architects wants to demolish the two low-level one-storey houses, designed by Robin Spence and Robin Webster, and replace them with two more conventional four-storey family homes.

But Save Belsize, a pressure group formed to save the houses, is backing calls for Camden Council to create a local list which would protect historic buildings from demolition.

At present, rules allow any unlisted property outside a conservation area to be knocked down without council permission.

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Architect Danielle Tinero, of nearby Belsize Avenue, says the houses are perfect candidates for listing.

“There is a move in Camden for a local list because there are a number of historical houses that are unlisted but very precious and which people want to have the power to save: for example, Athlone House and the Old Chappell Piano Factory. The Spence and Weber House is similar. The houses contribute so much to the character of the area.

“They are so skilfully constructed and are a beautiful modern intervention into a conservation area. What is proposed will have no positive impact on the environment. It would block the views and could take away the characteristics of the site.

“It wouldn’t pay homage to the [main] Avenue House in the way that the Spence and Weber House does by keeping it as the principal residence and keeping the green space. They are also proposing that the materials of the new houses will be limestone which is completely at odds with the area.”

Award-winning contemporary architect Ron Arad also wants to see the housees saved.

He said: “The Spence and Webster House has served as one of the few examples of brave idealistic architecture in our neighbourhood. I’ve always admired the way the house stands against the pressure of greed – the real estate forces which grab every opportunity to ‘maximise’ the building permit of every square centimetre – and I trusted wrongly that the planners, who so righteously protect every insignificant ‘old timey’ feature, had learnt by now to recognise the importance and beauty of brave modern architectures.”

Seth Stein, another high profile architect, added: “These buildings are an important example of modular, prefabricated dry construction and belong to the story of UK domestic architecture.

“They will become increasingly significant with the passage of time when regarded in this context.”

The planning application had been due to come before Camden Council tonight (Thursday) but the discussion has been postponed and will be rearranged for a date in March.