OpinioN8

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Two different views of a development at Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Place has for a long time been a burden to Haringey, and much money has been spent on it. It as though a great source of pride. The People's Palace and Park is enshrined in law. The fact that the BBC and Logie Baird all but invented public television broadcasts on the site is such a source of pride that the radiating TV signals form the Haringey logo which appears on every Haringey web page, and on all its documents.

The current proposals to develop the Palace contain something of a conundrum, at least in one small part. The proposal is to unbrick the arches at first floor level to restore the building to something like its built state, to make the interior spaces usable for modern purposes, and thereby drive visits and profitability.

But, all this would come at the cost of destroying the studios, technical areas and dressing rooms used in all those early BBC broadcasts. There is an argument that keeping all these features, but making them a destination for visitors wishing to see the historic studios, would encourage visitors, financial profit, and at the same time enhance the standing of the site, redoubling our pride and preserving some truth in the borough logo.

If you want to read more about this there is an Alexandra Palace development article on OpinioN8 which contains links and text setting out arguments and history. The booklet about the history of the studios (see attachments) is especially informative.

If you think the studios should be preserved please let Haringey know using the comments form on the planning page. You can see my comments here.

Tags: alexandra palace, ally pally, bbc, dec2014, planning, theatre

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I support what Adrian has written.

If you have seen The Imitation Game, the brilliant film about the Bletchley Park de-crypters, who may well have shortened the war and saved thousands of lives (if you haven't I urge you to go!) you’ll know that this vital work was done in ugly, ad-hoc wooden huts constructed in the Park of the Victorian building. These huts were nearly demolished some years ago, but were fortunately saved. 

Under the arguments of the architects of the latest plans for Ally Pally, and some dimwits at English Heritage, who consider that the bricking-in which constructed and define the BBC studios should be removed as it is ugly and want to return the building to a “more important earlier phase” - when they were tearooms - the Bletchley huts would have been demolished – tidied away to reveal the Victorian mansion.

So I also urge people who care about the historical landmark in our backyard, to write to the planners objecting to the above argument, and arguing for the retaining of the integrity of the studios, because they are historically imore important, and re-constructing that end to a Victorian pastiche would be a travesty.

Adrian, thanks for your succinct summary

 I have reservations about one tenth or so of the overall plans, but for that one tenth, there are 101 aspects. You mention two different views of development (of the SE wing). For example, the difference between the two evident approaches could be characterised in these ways, for example:

Trust the luvvies ... or trust conservationists?

Respect neat symmetry ... or respect (real) rushed innovation?

Tidy-up and sanitise history ... or present the history, "warts and all".

Restore the (Edwardian) tea rooms ... or restore the birthplace of television? 

Abandon the commitment to World Heritage ... or keep it as a long term goal?

Pander to local nimby-neatness ... or appreciate history of global importance?

Take a superficial, unsympathetic approach ... or try to understand what happened and where?

Open up 200+ feet of balcony ... or keep the bricked in parts that housed Baird's special booth?

Rely on fashionable electronic displays ... or keep as much as possible of the actual walls and fabric?

Unfortunately, AP management intends to allow a young architect to stamp his mark on our history. Sadly, the current plans lack real imagination and are emphatically not informed by the actual history of the SE wing.

The rooms he's conjured up are smart, modern and initially impressive .. and standard. They could be anywhere in London ... and might as well be anywhere in Britain. They'd have a great view, but so will many other parts on the southern facade: some points will have better views.

It appears that the lion's share of money and thought and attention has gone into the north-east wing of the Victorian theatre, continued along through the ice rink foyer and then went part way across the south-east wing (with the 1936 studios). The and interest and enthusiasm petered out about half-way across: and it shows.

The Luvvies have dominated the exercise. Unfortunately, it does seem to me to reflect the English ailment of a general lack of respect for engineers and engineering. Nothing, absolutely nothing in television would have been possible without their hard work and magnificent achievement in 1936.

There is still time for management to amend the proposals. It would be a pity if this debate has to spill over, unncessarily into the national arena, as it will detract from the majority of the proposals that are worthwhile.

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