Eyecatcher or Eyesore? Twentieth Century Society backs local campaign against Brunswick Centre extension plans

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The Twentieth Century Society has joined local residents and architects in objecting to the addition of a large restaurant structure at the Brunswick Centre in London that we fear would harm this grade II listed complex.

Named the ‘Eyecatcher’, a long rectangular box would sit within the grand entrance portico opposite the Brunswick Square Gardens, wedged over and considerably wider than the existing Renoir Cinema. It would block views into and out of the historic estate and obstruct dramatic views of the structural frame of the building that are only visible from underneath the portico.

“The Brunswick Centre is one of Britain’s great modernist masterpieces. Wedging a long rectangular box into the void of the grand entrance portico and on top of the Renoir cinema would harm this grade II listed building, and overshadow the piazza below.” said Henrietta Billings, Senior Conservation Adviser, Twentieth Century Society. “We would also lose fantastic public views up into the vast concrete A-framed structure of the complex that are only visible from this space under the portico. It’s the wrong development in the wrong place, ” she added.

Catherine Croft, Director of the Twentieth Century Society said, “We are urging Twentieth Century Society members and others to support the local residents’ petition. The Brunswick Centre is already very commercially successful. We think adding extra volume in this space would jeopardise the fabulous architecture which underlies the retail success of the Centre.”

So far over 350 people, including architect Richard Rogers and former Cabe chairman Paul Finch, have put their names to the petition calling on Camden Council to refuse the plans. To sign the petition, click here.


Notes to Editors:

The Brunswick Centre, built to the designs of Patrick Hodgkinson in 1967-72 by was listed at grade II in 2000 largely in response to the importance of its pioneering reinforced concrete ‘A-framed’ megastructure construction. The formal double height entrance to the shopping mall opposite Brunswick Square is the only public place where the framework of the structure is left open save for the cinema.

On the Brunswick Gardens elevation, the scale of the portico and the transparency it provides in this part of the complex is an important part of the experience and appreciation of the architecture. The Brunswick centre itself is a ‘set text’ for architecture students at several London architecture schools who regularly visit the site to study its complex structure, and it is a long established popular destination on Open House Weekend and other architectural tours.

We are concerned that the proposed restaurant extension, that will sit on top of the Renoir cinema, will cause harm to the significance of the grade II listed Brunswick Centre for the following reasons:

  • Facing Brunswick Square Gardens, this part of the east elevation of the Brunswick Centre features a grand double height entrance portico defined by giant slender full height columns. The space under the portico is the only public view point of the A-frame construction and the space between the columns and the stepped access decks to the five storeys of flats above. The views from this point are key to understanding how the complex was constructed. The insertion of a restaurant which is longer and wider than the cinema will obstruct these important sightlines of the megastructure.
  • The long projection of the restaurant and its horizontal emphasis both into the shopping parade and towards Brunswick Square Gardens will disrupt the strong vertical emphasis of the seven supporting columns which stand proud of the structure of the Brunswick Centre. It will also overshadow and dominate the public piazza in front of the formal entrance.
  • The proposed stair and lift to the side of the restaurant will take up almost half of the space of one of the two main entrance approaches to the building. Not only is this a major additional intrusion to the formal entrance, but it disrupts the symmetry of the existing arrangement whereby the simple cinema pavilion structure is slotted between the central columns

For further information please contact Catherine Croft or Henrietta Billings on 020 7250 3857 or Henrietta@c20society.org.uk

About The Twentieth Century Society

The Twentieth Century Society is a membership organisation which campaigns for the conservation of the best C20th architecture. It was founded in 1976 as the Thirties Society and is now recognised by government and has a statutory role in the planning process. For more details, see our website, www.c20society.org.uk.

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