epr Architects last week unveiled its second office design for the historic Spitalfields area of London as developers warned of a £500,000 bill for the removal of thousands of medieval corpses found buried on the site.
Two new buildings costing £170 million are planned on the site of part of the Spitalfields market, but the legacy of the area's use as a burial ground for the nearby hospital now means that around 8000 corpses are being transported to new consecrated ground in Essex at a cost of £65 each. The tomb of a wealthy Roman woman was also found on the site and is now at the Museum of London.
In a further twist the developers discovered an underground charnel house, used to house bones, which English Heritage wants to see preserved on site.
But the epr and developer, Spitalfields Development Group, insist the archaeological finds will not disrupt the development, and have submitted a detailed planning application to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. A decision is due later this spring. There is already an outline consent on the two proposed buildings granted in 1997 after Foster and Partners designed a new home for the futures exchange liffe. This was abandoned when the exchange ended open-outcry trading last year and switched to an electronic platform. The move meant that liffe needs less space and now epr's designs are replacing Foster's scheme, though for different tenants.
The new design aims to be sympathetic to Hawksmoor's famous church in the area.
'We have made some improvements to the massing of the design and substituted some details such as the use of terracotta cladding. We have reduced the size of one of the buildings by two storeys and use staircase shafts to create rhythm towards the church,' said epr director Stuart Lowther.
epr is proposing two buildings, one 17,000m2 with four storeys and the other 55,000m2 with seven storeys. Both will be primarily office blocks but will also feature retail units on ground level.
Local community group, Spitalfields Community Association (sca), is opposing the plan to demolish part of the market to make way for the offices.
'The developers and the City have the bit between their teeth and they are blinkered to the success of the market and its regenerative impact on the area,' said sca secretary Jil Cove. She also described the designs as 'oppressive' and a threat to regular arts festivals that are held in the market.
The buildings will sit next to the new abn-Amro headquarters on Bishopsgate - also designed by epr - and are due for completion by the end of 2003.