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Libeskind extension turned down by Heritage Lottery Fund

The Victoria and Albert Museum is now likely to drop the £70 million project

The trustees of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) convened in July for their biannual meeting to assess funding requests for major projects. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford emerged as the winner with the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Spiral extension designed by Daniel Libeskind, the loser.

The HLF awarded the Ashmolean Museum £15 million towards its development project. This involves the removal of unsatisfactory additions to its 1845 building and a new extension, thereby doubling display space and upgrading facilities. Total costs of the Rick Mather-designed scheme are £50 million. Work is due to start next year, for completion by late 2008.

The V&A’s Spiral bid for £15 million was turned down. This follows rejections by the Millennium Commission in 1996 and the Arts Council Lottery Fund last April. HLF director Carole Souter commented: “We thought long and hard about this proposal, but decided that it would not be able to deliver the heritage benefits that we expect for such a large request for Lottery players’ money”.

The V&A responded that it was “deeply disappointed by this news; Britain excels in the field of contemporary design and badly needs a national centre to showcase our creative talents”. Although the V&A already has £31 million pledged in private support, it will be virtually impossible to proceed with the Spiral unless a wealthy donor is found, as costs would be almost £70 million. V&A trustees meet on 16 September, and are likely to drop the Libeskind building.

Meanwhile, HLF had earlier decided against supporting a £4.1 million request from the National Gallery towards its East Wing project. The first part of the scheme, which is already funded, opens on 26 September. It includes a street-level entrance on Trafalgar Square along with new public facilities and a staircase to the central hall. The HLF application was for the second part of the scheme, to upgrade the portico vestibule and the staircase to the upper galleries. The whole East Wing scheme will cost £21 million. By June, £13 million had been raised and further sums have since been pledged. It is hoped to raise the full sum by next spring, so that the main portico can reopen in summer 2005. HLF’s rejection should not delay building work.

HLF has deferred a decision on a National Trust £20 million application for Tyntesfield, the Gothic Revival mansion near Bristol. As The Art Newspaper revealed, total costs for the project are expected to be over £50 million (The Art Newspaper, No. 143, January 2004, p.7). Although just over half this sum has been raised, the National Trust would be in a difficult position if the earmarked £20 million from the Lottery is not awarded. A revised application from the National Trust is expected to be considered by HLF at the end of the year.