BA London Eye inventor and designer Marks Barfield is attempting to aim even higher with a stunningly ambitious proposal to build a £2 billion scheme of up to 20 of its 50 storey 'Skyhouse' buildings on the Greenwich peninsula. The architect says the scheme for a new urban quarter could house as many as 14,000 people in high densities, while 300,000m 2of commercial development in the centre of the site and a reworking of the politically embarrassing Millennium Dome could complete the picture.
Marks Barfield partner David Marks presented images of the 'serious' scheme his practice has worked up to come to the aid of London's 'urgent and undisputed need' for more housing at the AJ's 'Tall Storeys?' conference at the RIBA last week. He wants the Skyhouse towers - featuring shops, creches, restaurants, sky-lobbies and diverse housing types - to be built alongside a '21st century' riverside version of Battersea Park.
'To say this is ambitious is an understatement, ' Marks told the AJ. 'It's not the kind of thing that can be done by a single developer or the public purse. It needs to be some kind of partnership between a number of developers and the public sector - English Partnerships, housing corporations, government, the GLA, Greenwich; maybe it's an urban regeneration company thing or something similar.'
The architect has already presented the proposals to the agent of landowner English Partnerships, Jones Lang LaSalle. The peninsula site has long been the subject of controversy, not least since the Dome was closed at a cost to the taxpayer of £1 million per month. English Partnerships has also seen two 'winning' schemes failthose from Japanese bank Nomura and Legacy.
A Cabinet Office spokesman told the AJ that there have been over 100 expressions of interest for the site so far but that any new competition - if they choose to hold one - will be announced in around a month's time. The current Government's position is that the Dome stays, regardless.
'It is a perfectly timed opportunity for the private sector and public sector to join forces and meet the challenge of the future, ' said Marks. 'Rather than allow this important site to be designed and developed piece-meal on separate land holdings, [we want to] show that it is possible to invest in, to build and create affordable, yet high quality, high density, mixed tenure, homes for Londoners and more sustainable communities.'
The Skyhouse buildings are each designed as a cluster of (in plan) three slender leaf-shaped towers. They will be built at different heights, with a 50 storey scheme able to provide 430 dwellings at an average of 75m 2each, with 35 per cent set aside for rented affordable homes. The peninsula site means they will avoid the heritage problems dogging proposals for towers in the City and will gain from the new transport infrastructure.
Marks added that the proposal would provide a new 'vision' for the Dome but remained tightlipped about details. 'It's a very exciting idea and we think it's possible to turn the Dome around.We just want the chance to do it, ' he said.