The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment has laid into plans by Sir Geoffrey Reid Associates and Sir Philip Dowson for a massive 700-bed hotel next to Battersea Power Station.
In what is the latest blow to decades of architectural attempts to breathe new life into the ailing Thames-side landmark, CABE's design review committee said the project to build an 'enormous' hotel on the site 'lacked a clear controlling idea or vision which would lead to a building of quality commensurate with its impact'.
The architects drew up plans for a 55,930m 2hotel to the east of the site connected to the flank of the power station by a linear glazed winter garden, with a ground floor taken up with conference facilities and banqueting rooms. CABE had already seen designs for the entire site at two earlier meetings and had been pleased with progress, praising the variety of building types from a number of architects and stressing that each element should act as 'a high-quality magnet in its own right'. But it said this week it was 'unconvinced' by details on the hotel in particular, such as its lack of consistent or distinctive character in the 'huge' public rooms and spaces. CABE also questioned whether two proposed courtyards, overlooked by bedrooms from the first floor up, would be 'enjoyable spaces' and attacked the two 'unnecessarily high' rooftop elements. They contain a restaurant and health club, but the committee believes the feature adds little to the quality of the proposal.
CABE chief executive Jon Rouse said the entire £400 million Battersea project by developer Parkview also needed to pay attention to the human scale of the public spaces proposed but singled out Geoffrey Reid's scheme: 'The hotel is in danger of letting the side down, ' he said. 'Its current design is unworthy of its role as a footstool to the glory of the listed power station.'
Parkview responded that it will be holding further discussions with CABE before deciding whether to ask the architect to alter its designs.
CABE was more positive about other elements of the Battersea project, however, 'strongly supporting' a jetty by Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners which features ingenious capsules which raise and lower people to and from river boats. It also broadly commended a 2,100-seat flexible theatre space by Arup Associates (pictured) which sits between the south end of the station and commercial buildings. The theatre could be 'an exciting focal point' in the project, said CABE, but it had reservations about the building's glass cladding.