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Clerkenwell architect clashes with Islington Council while critics hail his “architectural triumph”

Town Hall planners order bulldozing of building that has won prizes but sticks out like a sore thumb, according to locals

21 September, 2018

AN award-winning architect has been ordered to bulldoze a new building in Clerkenwell which has sharply divided opinion, with critics hailing it as an “architectural triumph” but residents arguing that it must come down.

Amin Taha, who has worked under renowned architect Zaha Hadid, is now locked in a battle with Town Hall planners behind the demand to demolish his seven- storey office and house in Clerkenwell.

The building won Mr Taha two of the most prestigious prizes in the architecture world earlier this year, but Islington Council says the building at 15 Clerkenwell Close looks different from the designs given planning consent.

Mr Taha, who lives on the top floor of the building with his family, says his latest plans received approval from council officers, but were not uploaded onto the council’s planning website, giving the impression that they were not signed- off.

“If I have to demolish this building it will bankrupt me and cost millions,” said Mr Taha. The building houses eight apartments as well as his architectural firm which employs eight people.

The completed building features a stone facade made up of fossilised ammonite shells, coral and quartz extracted from a quarry in France.

“The building reminds us of the vanished 11th century limestone Norman abbey which was here. It’s an expression of the innate beauty of the material itself and the skills of the stonemasons and quarry masons to reveal those fossils and allow that to be the dressing,” said Mr Taha.

Building in Clerkenwell Close hailed as an ‘astonishing architectural triumph’

He added that his building, directly opposite Grade I-listed St James Church, reflects the radical history of the area, with the Marx Memorial Library a stone’s throw away.

The structure has divided opinion, with architectural journalists hailing it as “glorious”. Mr Taha received two prestigious RIBA prizes for his design, with the architectural body calling it an “astonishing architectural triumph”.

But it was also nominated for a Carbuncle Cup – a tongue-in-cheek award for the “worst building of the year”.

Some neighbours have called for the building to be demolished while others are backing Mr Taha and have called on the Town Hall to preserve it.

Ann Pembroke, from Clerkenwell Green Preservation Society, said she was “appalled” by the building.

“I am totally supportive of it being demolished,” she said. “It is not in any way following conservation area ethics and it stands out like a sore thumb. If you want to do something outrageous don’t choose a medieval close to put it in.”

Inside the architect firm’s offices

A spokesman for the Town Hall said: “After an investigation, the council has come to the view that the building at 15 Clerkenwell Close does not reflect the building that was granted planning permission and conservation area consent in 2013.

“In the council’s view, the existing building does not benefit from planning permission. The council issued an enforcement notice on February 26, 2018, to take effect on April 9, 2018.

“The owners of the site appealed that enforcement notice on April 6, 2018, and the case will now be handled by the Planning Inspectorate.”

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