A Right Royal Barracking at NLA

Thursday 9 July 2009

In light of the recent furore surrounding the Chelsea Barracks development, NLA hosted a debate this morning to ask what lessons should be learnt.

Robert Adam, Director of Robert Adam Architects, Ben Derbyshire, Managing Director at HTA and Rowan Moore, architecture critic at the Evening Standard were invited to speak at a free breakfast talk to an audience that included architects, developers, property investors and planners as well as members of the Chelsea Barracks Action Group and the real estate investment company Qatari Diar.

NLA asked the three speakers to discuss whether modernist architects are out of tune with public taste or are the nimbies of Chelsea? How representative are the protests (Royal or otherwise)? And how can you compare disparate architectural approaches?

The debate began with Robert Adam, an architect renowned for his approach to traditional architecture, who expounded on the merit of traditional architecture as "a vital link between people, their culture and their identity", and highlighted the importance of style in relating us to a cultural past.

Ben Derbyshire was asked to discuss the issue of designing contemporary architecture which is acceptable to a site's neighbours and future occupiers. He concluded that design based around streets, with a variety of forms, space and architectural innovation, carried out in collaboration with architects and local people, is the way forward.

Lastly, Rowan Moore gave a thorough review of the area surrounding Chelsea Barracks, highlighting the complex mix of London's architectural 'context', and argued that an intervention on stylistic grounds doesn't get to the heart of what the site needs.

The Chelsea Barracks proposal, by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, was recently withdrawn from planning by the real estate investment company Qatari Diar, and the scheme is now being reassessed.

Click here to see a transcript of Robert Adam's speech.

Click here to see a transcript of Ben Derbyshire's speech.

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