The revisions, made in response to comments by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, local residents and English Heritage, include a number of changes to the Parabola, a 1962 listed building, a revised landscape scheme, a number of height reductions to the residential development and enhanced views of the Parabola building from Kensington High Street.
The original plans submitted in April 2009 for what has been dubbed as the 'Parabola' showed dramatic alterations to the 1960s Commonwealth Institute and included a set of three residential blocks varying from 6-9 floors. The new plans have reduced the heights of these towers and include a park setting and water feature as part of the landscaping revisions.
In efforts to maintain some of the original character of the building the sequence of arrival and space disposition has now been changed to more closely resemble the existing arrangement. Visitors would arrivel over a bridge on top of a water feature into the building with a platform giving access by stairs throughout the building. This sequence will be detailed in a further submission by the Design Museum later and retains one of the principal design features of the building.
Other changes in the building include open floors at all levels and the new openings in the floors have been enlarged. Stairs and lifts have been deferred to the Design Museum’s later fit-out applications.
The site and buildings (Grade II Listed) have had a chequered history since the decline of the Commonwealth Institute. From 1996 onwards, the country exhibits were removed and the building was used for exhibition and conference facilities. It finally closed in 2004 as these uses failed. There have been six failed attempts to obtain lottery funding and other grants and there have been proposals for a wide range of uses which have all failed because of the difficult nature of the design of the original building which was constructed for a very specific purpose on a very limited budget.
The Design Museum’s future use of the building will be part-financed by the developers, with a contribution of £20 million toward the cost of the restoration, and the donation of a long term lease at a nominal rent.