King’s College London has got the go-ahead to demolish a row of historic buildings on the Strand.
Westminster City Council approved architect Hall McKnight’s plans for the site last night, and the late 17th-century properties between 154-158 Strand will now make way for a new teaching building. As part of the development, however, the facades of the Grade II-listed 152-153 Strand will remain.
The proposed brick structure will have a curved roof inspired by the crescent shape of nearby Aldwych. Its dark exterior is designed to blend in with the adjacent 1970s Brutalist building that belongs to the university.
King’s College University also plans to revamp the entrance of its Brutalist structure, as well as build extensions to other parts of its campus.
The demolition has been slammed by campaign groups, including the Victorian Society. ‘King’s College will gain a small amount of extra space, but the loss to London’s architecture and history will be permanent,’ said director Christopher Costelloe.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage director Clem Cecil added: ‘We see these buildings as quintessentially London. They make up the connective tissue of the Strand, one of the most historic streets in the country. The proposed replacement is a waste, it is not sustainable, it is arrogant in the extreme – robbing London of a historic streetscape with great charm and variety.’
But a spokesman for King’s College London explained: ‘We are extremely proud of our heritage and are sensitive to the architecturally significant environment in which we operate at the heart of London. A thriving centre of excellence in education and research on the Strand brings considerable value and public benefit to London.’
Historic England, who consulted with Westminster City Council on the scheme, believes the development will have a positive long-term impact that will outweigh the loss of the original buildings. A spokesman said: ‘The area currently has a varied architecture that has changed considerably over the centuries and the proposals continue this long tradition.
‘We recognise that the King’s College proposal to demolish the unlisted buildings at 154-158 Strand will harm the conservation area. But it must also be recognised that there is strong public benefit in enabling the University to improve its teaching facilities and therefore enhance its international reputation. This, along with the way they build, is how our institutions contribute to national life.’