Protecting the London pub: Kingston University students apply for UNESCO world heritage status

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: World heritage site

The Dover Castle in Regent's Park, London, photographed by Kingston University architecture students who are applying for UNESCO world heritage status for London pubs
The Dover Castle in Regent's Park, London, photographed by Kingston University architecture students who are applying for UNESCO world heritage status for London pubs
A group of architecture students from Kingston University have launched a campaign to protect the London pub by beginning a process to get the same United Nations recognition currently granted to national cultural traditions like the Viennese Coffee house.

More than 400 interior design, architecture and landscape architecture students are aiming to get the London pub world heritage status, as granted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Over the next nine months, the students, aided by tutor David Knight, will write a 350-page document to submit to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) - the first stage of the process.

Tradition

More than 80 pubs across the capital are currently being documented by visiting students who are not applying for the status for any one pub but instead the cultural tradition of the pub as a whole in London.

"UNESCO has a tradition of listing so-called serial sites, from prehistoric caves in France to modernist housing estates in Berlin," Knight said. 

"We’re not focusing on the fixtures and fittings but rather on the role a pub plays in a community and what it means to the people who use it."

Developers

The campaign, which has already generated interest on Twitter and around the world, is backed by the head of the Architecture and Landscape school at Kingston University Daniel Rosbottom.

"Thinking about a special pub and what's unique about it, it suddenly seems a bit futile to only protect its physical fabric, without thinking of who uses it and for what. The surveys, which students have carried out, describe more than just physical things. They attempt to understand how those things relate to the needs of the pub's community," he said.

"Designers frequently treat planning and heritage policy only as constraints. This project has encouraged a whole school of students, across three disciplines, to see them instead as things that they can influence and engage with," Rosbottom concluded.

Acting after more statistics on the number of pub closures were recently released by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra),​ the students are the latest group of people to look at ways of protecting pubs which are increasingly being sold to developers for housing or retail.

Recently the focus has been on Cambridge where local MP Julian Huppert tried to get a bill through Parliament and city councillors backed the results of a consultation which called on planning laws to be used to protect pubs.

However those moves were dealt a double blow recently​ and have been criticised by some pub organisations and fellow campaigners.

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