Redevelopment of the former Commonwealth Institute
There is probably no other period to which contemporary architecture is more indebted than the 1960s – a period of structural invention that finally allowed modern architecture to break free from the formalist geometries through which it had manifested itself.
In the context of architecture’s present quest for the iconic, the 60s experiments form a rich reservoir of precedents. It is unfortunate that the 1960s is a period now threatened with extensive demolition.
We now the opportunity to conceive a new future for London’s Commonwealth Institute and to ultimately rehabilitate a period that continues to inform contemporary architecture.
The original building, by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners, completed in 1962, marks the transition from British Empire to Commonwealth and is regarded by English Heritage, the UK government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment, as an important modern building.
The Commonwealth Institute has stood empty and been closed to the public since 2002. In 2006, the grade II* listed building (one of the highest protection ratings possible in the UK), was threatened with demolition after a (failed) government proposal to delist it.
In December 2007, along with five other architectural firms, OMA were invited by Chelsfield deputy chairman Sir Stuart Lipton to consider the potential of the Commonwealth Institute site.
OMA’s design seeks to save the building by re-injecting life into the modernist monument while retaining its distinctive copper roof and parabolic form. New residential accommodation will integrate into the existing fabric of the site, regenerating the western end of Kensington High Street. Source by OMA.
- Location: Kensington and Chelsea, London, UK
- Architects: OMA and Allies & Morrison
- Client: 224 KHS Developments Ltd
- OMA Partners in charge: Reinier de Graaf
- OMA Project Architect: Isabel Silva
- OMA Team: Olga Banchikova, Duarte Santo, Ivan Valdez, Xu Yang
- Allies and Morrison Partners in charge: Robert Maxwell
- Allies and Morrison Director in Charge: Simon Fraser
- Allies and Morrison Project Architect: Neil Shaughnessy
- Allies and Morrison Team: Ozlem Balicadag, Thomas Cartledge, Joel Davenport, Ignacio Jimenez, Owen Jowett, Sean Joyce, Sophie Nicholaou, Marzia Rastelli, Tom See Hoo, Janina Vetriest
- Previous team: Caroline Andersen, Luis Arencibia, Fred Awty, Irina Bardakhanova, Thibaut Barrault, Thorben Bazlen, Rachel Bate, Katrin Betschinger, Philippe Braun, Matthew Brown, Kees van Casteren, Tudor Costachescu, Johanna Coste-Buscayret, Johan Dehlin, Sebastien Delagrange, Mitesh Dixit, Miles Gertler, Hannes Gutberlet, Richard Hollington III, Joyce Hsiang, Beth Hughes, Iris Hoffman, Yerin Kang, Bin Kim, Andrew Kovacs, Ines Kramer, Caroline Martin, Roza Matveeva, Andres Mendoza, Barbara Modolo, Ross O’Connell, Adrian Phiffer, Alex Rodriguez, Heidi Shah, Lawrence Siu, Mike Slade, Boris Vapne, Delnaz Yekrangian, Nikos Yiatros, Fenna Wagenaar, Greg R. Williams
- Year: starting date on site expected the 11th June 2012, completion date 2014
- Photographs: Hufton and Crow, Nick Gutteridge, Philip Vile, Courtesy of OMA
Article by Marco Rinaldi