A modernist building designed by Richard Seifert & Partners and a neo-Georgian building by Robert Angell & Curtis could be demolished in a redevelopment on Berners Street. Derwent London intend to submit a planning application to Westminster council in April to demolish three buildings and create a single new building.
Derwent held an exhibition last week illustrating outline plans for basement, ground and seven upper floors totalling nearly 14,000 square metres at 25-33 Berners Street. The proposed replacement building designed by architects Piercy & Company would provide an additional 21 percent of floorspace and create shops and restaurants at ground level.
In a letter to neighbours Tom French of Derwent London stated: “The proposed design would create new activity and visual interest at ground floor level, with space for new shops that would open up views through the building between Berners Street and Berners Mews. The new office space would be suitable for a wider range of potential office tenants.”
Derwent London bought two of the buildings from MCPS-PRS Alliance (PRS for Music) for £35m before costs in December 2012. PRS came to an arrangement with Derwent to remain in the building, leasing it back for three years with an option to break the lease before its end. PRS for Music is moving to new offices at Kings Cross later this year.
None of the buildings facing demolition are listed or in a conservation area, although they are close to the East Marylebone Conservation Area and the Charlotte Street West Conservation Area. The site is also diagonally opposite the Grade II* listed Sanderson Hotel.
The modernist building at 29-33 Berners Street was designed by Richard Seifert & Partners and was constructed between 1957 and 1959. Seifert was a prolific architect and his company designed Centrepoint Tower and Tower 42. He was controversial, notorious even, often admired more for his business skills than his artistic sensitivity.
At 25-27 Berners Street is the neo-Georgian British Music House, designed by Robert Angell & Curtis and built by G E Wallis & Sons in 1936. The same architect and builder constructed a smaller building on the opposite side of the street as well as many other London buildings.
The proposal to demolish these buildings which are all in good condition is a cause of concern on environmental grounds. Although not officially recognised as positive contributors to Fitzrovia’s built landscape they have their merits and the noise and rubble removal from demolition and rebuilding will annoy the site’s many neighbours, many of whom have had to put up with disturbance from Fitzroy Place and Crossrail traffic.
People will question why a less environmentally destructive refurbishment that retains the buildings merits is not being put forward.
At the exhibition of the plans Derwent announced that they would be expecting Westminster City Council to make a decision on the planning application in August. If given the go ahead they would start demolition in December and complete the new building by early 2017.