Robert Evans – Save the Assembly Rooms

PDP_Rob Evans Save the Assembly Rooms, Derby Assembly Rooms

Writing for Planning & Design Practice Ltd, Architect Robert Evans from Evans Vettori outlines why he believes Derby’s iconic Assembly Rooms should be saved and repurposed as the heart of the city’s Market Square.

As a local architect, in practice in Derbyshire for over 25 years, I strongly object to the current proposal to demolish the Assembly Rooms. I have spent many happy evenings in the venue enjoying music, pantomime and beer festivals. This building is arguably the finest 20th century building in the City of Derby.

Whilst its so-called ‘70s Brutalist’ style is currently unfashionable, as time passes, it will inevitably be re-evaluated as has happened with other once controversial styles. There can be no doubt that Post-War architecture is increasingly appreciated by a wider public.

The Assembly Rooms is a carefully designed building in the centre of the city and is recognised as a historic asset that contributes to the appearance and character of the City Centre Conservation Area. The submitted documents that accompany the application for demolition state clearly that demolition will harm the Conservation Area and therefore the city centre. With nothing to replace this building, demolition will be an act of vandalism that will further damage Derby and its image across the country.

Market Square is the very heart of the city. The building itself is very robustly built and is in good structural repair. The Structural condition report states that the building is suffering only minor structural defects. The application to demolish it seems timed to hastily bulldoze the building before its current Certificate of Immunity from Listing expires in May.

Derby desperately needs a large venue, befitting this important regional city. Assuming you had a budget of say £30m, and two options, which makes the most sense?

Option 1: At great cost, demolish a huge amount of reinforced concrete, creating vast quantities of landfill and releasing embodied CO2, then pay for a temporary tart-up of an empty city-centre site. Use whatever is left in the hope of starting from scratch on a site further away from the Cultural Quarter.

Option 2: Use all the available money to upgrade and refurbish the perfectly robust and useable venue that you already have.

It seems blindingly obvious to me that option 2 represents much better value for tax-payers money. Many people who care about Derby, both locally and nationally, feel the same way as I do. Below is a link to my petition, now exceeding 1,400 signatures, which will be delivered to Derby City Council before the planning meeting, scheduled for 8 April.

Robert Evans, Founding Director, Evans Vettori

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