New London Architecture

From the Archive: Contemporary Westminster

Thursday 25 June 2020

Peter Murray

Peter Murray

Curator-in-chief

In March 2009 the NLA hosted the exhibition Contemporary Westminster. The photographic show marked the conclusion of the City Council's Design Year. Fifty projects were selected to give a snapshot of architectural design in the first decade of the new Millennium. 

Projects on display included Westminster Academy in Westbourne Park by AHMM, the Royal Academy of Music extension in Marylebone by John McAslan and Partners, Mason's Yard White Cube Gallery by Rundell Associates, the Royal Geographical Society extension by Studio Downie and Millbank Pier by Marks Barfield.

The exhibition was the brainchild of Cllr Robert Davies who was then Deputy Leader of the Council and concerned that the Borough was not receiving appropriate credit in encouraging high quality design.


"The buildings on display in this exhibition show that Westminster, which is famously renowned for its outstanding heritage, is also a place that embraces change and innovation,” said Cllr Davies.

"We want to see more buildings of a high standard being created in Westminster to ensure our residents and visitors are inspired, mystified and delighted by today's modern buildings”.

That year Westminster Council had received more than 11,000 planning applications, the highest number received by any council in the UK. As part of its design campaign the council wanted to see new buildings in the city become “exciting landmarks for future generations”.
 
A decade later Cllr Davis resigned from the Council after it was disclosed that he had enjoyed 514 “gifts and hospitality” in his council role. Public attention had focused on the former Deputy Leader following the saga of the ‘Paddington Pole’ a 72-storey circular tower next to the station designed by Renzo Piano and promoted by the late Irvine Sellar, the developer of The Shard. Davis was a keen supporter of the scheme which was abandoned following a massive outcry from local residents and the Skyline Campaign led by architect Barbara Weiss. It was replaced by the 14-storey glass Cube which is currently under construction.




Peter Murray

Peter Murray

Curator-in-chief



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