Royal Academy praises architecture of Highgate house critics called ‘a giant public toilet’

A father whose plans for a modern architect-designed house at the centre of Highgate Village caused a bitter planning row is “honoured” that the scheme has won praise in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

The Royal Academy of Arts has commended designs by architects Birds Portchmouth Russum (BPR) for a house on the junction of Highgate High Street and South Grove that critics had likened to a “giant public toilet”.

A model of the proposed new building is in the summer exhibition – though the scheme has still not won planning permission after eight years in development.

Iain Brewester, 44, says he has spent his life savings trying to find a “beautiful” modern building for the site to create a dream family home. He was delighted at the Royal Academy’s praise after the designs were rejected by Camden planners in February.

Mr Brewester, who has two young daughters and whose family has owned the land for 38 years, said: “It’s a great relief that, after eight years of hard work, people are recognising this as something of great quality or great design and the fact that it sits sensitively within the village.

“It certainly makes me feel a lot more positive about the future and about appealing the planning decision.

“I hope that this will help to convince cynics that this is a good piece of modern architecture.”

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A planning battle in February saw the design likened to a “giant public toilet” and fears were raised that the new building would ruin views of Pond Square.

The Highgate Society, which opposed the bulk and modern design of the building, said it would be an “extremely damaging development for the village”.

Mr Brewester, who owns a creative agency, has now renewed his intention to appeal Camden’s refusal, spurred on by the national spotlight on the designs, which also featured in the Architects’ Journal review of the summer exhibition.

Kirsten de Keyser, chair of the Highgate Society, offered her congratulations to BPR, but added: “Highgate Village is not an avant garde gallery space. It is an everyday urban working environment. It is also a conservation area. ‘‘Highgate has a number of stunning contemporary, award-winning modern homes. But this design is simply not compatible with its surroundings – in the view of the Highgate Society, at least.”