The opening of Paternoster Square adjacent to St Paul's, masterplanned by William Whitfield, brings to a quiet end a noisy saga stretching back to the 1960s
Sir Nikolaus Pevsner's verdict on the 1960s Paternoster Square development was: 'Outstandingly well-conceived sensible and unobtrusive inviting to the local employees as well as to the tourists'. That verdict has been frequently quoted during the past two decades, during which the future of this City quarter immediately north of St Paul's Cathedral has been intensely debated, sometimes vituperatively. But far from being 'inviting', Trehearne & Norman's elevated central piazza was a bleak and generally deserted space surrounded by buildings that were not so much 'unobtrusive' as plain dull.
As Sir William Whitfield, a friend of Pevsner and masterplanner for the recently completed redevelopment of the area, remarks, this was an instance where the great historian's judgement was perhaps unduly swayed by his doggedly Modernist principles.
Even 50 years ago, with the post-war redevelopment of the City beginning in earnest, it was generally accepted that the Paternoster Square area was special. Largely leveled in the Blitz, its piecemeal reconstruction was ruled out in favour of a masterplan by Lord Holford, which was broadly realised in the scheme completed in 1967 with the Church Commissioners as landlord for the bulk of the site.
As early as 1984, with London again on the threshold of a property boom, the redevelopment of Paternoster Square began to be discussed. Mountleigh Group, which acquired a 250-year lease on 1.8ha at the heart of the 3.1ha site in 1985, brought in Stuart Lipton to organise an invited international competition. Proposals were submitted by Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Arup Associates, Richard MacCormac, James Stirling, Arata Isozaki and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Arup Associates was subsequently appointed to develop its scheme, which was put on public display in the crypt of St Paul's in summer 1988. Stylistically and urbanistically, there was more than a polite nod in the proposals towards Post-Modern Classicism and none of the radicalism of Foster or Rogers.
However, late in 1987 the Prince ofWales, whose architectural crusade was then in full flow, had stood up at a Mansion House dinner and denounced not only all the competition schemes (which Lipton had shown to him), but equally the brief to which they responded. 'A sense of vision and civilised values' were needed, he opined, and perhaps these might be sought from a younger architect? The younger architect (b.1954) was already to hand in the form of John Simpson, whose Classically inspired proposal for Paternoster was based on an alternative brief developed by two then-members of the Prince's circle, Leon Krier and Dan Cruickshank. Mixed use, with an element of residential space, was as fundamental to the scheme as its prescriptions on scale and urban space - in essence it sought to recreate the pre-war layout of the area. When an elaborate model of Simpson's proposals was shown in St Paul's alongside Arup's schematic Perspex, 'work in progress'model, the public and a number of critics declared themselves for Simpson. The Simpson scheme received a favourable hearing from the City, though not the desired planning consent.
Arup soldiered on for another year, working for a new client (Mountleigh had sold its interest to a Venezuelan group), with Michael Hopkins and Richard MacCormac brought in to design elements of the scheme.
As a sop to traditionalists, the historic Temple Bar, banished to Hertfordshire in the 19th century, was to be reconstructed close to St Paul's. However, when the site again changed hands late in 1989, Arup was dropped by the new owner, Paternoster Associates (a consortium of Greycoat, US-based Park Tower and the Japanese Mitsubishi Estates Corporation).
One curious aspect of the process of design and counter-design on the Paternoster site between 1986 and 1996 was the assumption that the other owners of the three corners of the site could be pulled into the scheme regardless of their own interests and inclinations. (In 1989, these were Juxon House, owned by Standard Life Assurance, Sudbury House, owned by CEGB, and the octagon block at the eastern tip of the site owned by National Mutual of Australasia. ) Both Standard Life and CEGB (later Nuclear Electric) retained their own architects (William Whitfield and Rolfe Judd, respectively) and Sudbury House was subsequently redeveloped in advance of the rest of the site, though broadly in tune with the Whitfield masterplan.
In some respects the new scheme, launched by Paternoster Associates in 1991 and jointly masterplanned (very much a forced marriage of disparate spirits) by Simpson, Terry Farrell and Thomas Beeby, marked the high point of the influence of the New Classicism (and of the Prince) on the London development scene. All the architects involved - Robert Adam, Demetri Porphyrios, Quinlan Terry, Sidell Gibson and the American Allen Greenberg - could be described as Classicists. The Prince was supportive, Richard Rogers strongly critical - 'a false and nostalgic vision of the past'. The Royal Fine Art Commission had its doubts; the scheme constituted 'over-development', it reported, the new Paternoster Square would be a 'dark, dank and dreary space an unpleasant Disneyland', littered with superfluous 'features'.
As Leon Krier conceded (he described the proposed office buildings as 'huge, pretentious palaces'), many of the positive aspects of the earlier Simpson scheme had been discarded, not least the emphasis on mixed use.
The scheme received planning permission in autumn 1992 - when London was in deep recession - but was arguably never buildable anyway.With its huge areas of subterranean space and high infrastructure costs, it was unlikely to attract funding. An equally fundamental criticism - an issue that the Whitfield masterplan has now addressed - was that the shared infrastructure of the scheme would inhibit the redevelopment of the individual plots within it. 'It was essentially a megastructure, 'Whitfield insists.
The 1991 Simpson/Farrell/Beeby proposals were in turn abandoned after Mitsubishi Estates Corporation became sole owner of the core site and turned to Whitfield (sometime surveyor of St Paul's and member of the 1987 competition jury) to develop a new project.While some of the British Classicists acquitted themselves well on the site - Porphyrios, for example, has subsequently combined progressive Classicism with commerce in schemes at Reading and Birmingham's Brindleyplace - the designs by Greenberg, and even more by Beeby, were execrable, a throwback to the inflated Neo-Georgian of the 1920s and '30s. The proposed square would have been an awkward, constrained space focused on the sunken shopping area.
Whitfield was brought in, at the suggestion of Stuart Lipton, late in 1996.
Initially he was asked to review the Farrell/Simpson scheme, but advised that it was not commercially viable. He assembled a new design team to progress a new masterplan. Simpson was initially included, but was later dropped. Michael Hopkins and Partners also withdrew from the project after unspecified disagreements with the client. Eric Parry was then brought in to design 10 Paternoster Square (on the north side of the new square) with Sheppard Robson. The adjacent St Martin's Court was given to Allies and Morrison, while MacCormac Jamieson Prichard did Warwick Court, enclosing the square to the west. All these three blocks were, in fact, developed by Stanhope in association with MEC. In addition to developing the replacement scheme for Juxon House for Standard Life, Whitfield designed two buildings along the southern edge of the site with Sheppard Robson and Sidell Gibson, the latter also collaborating on the Juxon House project.
Whitfield has commented that the Paternoster project is 'not so much about architecture as place-making, repairing the city'. He has created a genuinely public space at the heart of the new scheme, which is likely to be well used and enjoyed. By placing only one, quite small, new building alongside the cathedral chapter house (and of course Temple Bar, set to finally land here next year and complete the composition), Whitfield has ensured a close relationship between the square and St Paul's. (The Simpson/Farrell scheme positioned a fivestorey office building between square and cathedral. ) Whitfield has succeeded where the '60s clearly failed and the 1991 masterplanners were set to fail. One gets the impression (though he is the soul of discretion) that Whitfield had to work hard to convince the client of the need for a civic gesture of this magnanimity.
For my own part, it is the success of the public spaces in the scheme that has overcome a degree of pessimism about its architectural content. It is no accident that MacCormac, Allies and Morrison and Parry are all associated with the Cambridge school and with a tradition of restrained Modernism established there by Sir Leslie Martin. Adjectives like 'decent' and 'appropriate' will cut no ice with some critics - 'a kind of trilby-hatted architecture that makes no concessions to the modern world', wrote one, long before the scheme went on site. Of the three buildings developed by Stanhope, Parry's is to my mind the most successful, its solid, somewhat enigmatic Portland stone facade providing a suitable backcloth to the square and coexisting happily enough with the colonnaded loggia, which was a nonnegotiable ingredient of the masterplan.
(The form of the loggia was amended and the proposed arched elevation dropped.
The Classical column in the new square, also by Whitfield, is equally strange and a little fey - it incorporates vents for the subterranean service route.
Of course Paternoster Square is, as Whitfield freely admits, a compromise. As urban design it is neither a literal reconstruction of what existed pre-1940 nor the radical reinvention proposed by most of the contenders in the 1987 competition. But it does take on board the urbanistic principles of the Krier school. The 1960s Paternoster formed a barrier between St Paul's and Newgate Street - now the area is permeable and inviting. The new office buildings are large in scale and there is no residential element (housing is not something the City encourages), but the retailing is likely to be highly popular. Architecturally, London has been spared horrors like that proposed by Mr Beeby and contextual Modernism has triumphed. The architecture of Paternoster is far more typical of the City today than much-publicised landmark schemes such as Swiss Re or Grimshaw's Minerva Tower. Yes, it would be wonderful if Paternoster Square incorporated more of that mix of public and private that Rogers and others have called for - it would have been an ideal place to relocate the Museum of London. But in the City commerce has always ruled, as Wren discovered after the Great Fire. Extremists on both sides will probably accuse Whitfield of selling the pass, but he set out to create 'a backdrop - urban theatre' in which St Paul's itself remains the principal player.
Considered in these terms, Paternoster provides an appropriate climax to Whitfield's long career in which the issue of reconciling history and modernity has always featured prominently.
ALLIES AND MORRISON
TENDER DATE Guaranteed Maximum Price agreed August 2001 START ON SITE DATE September 2001 CONTRACT DURATION 21 months, inc shell and core and Category A fit-out GROSS EXTERNAL FLOOR AREA 17,460m 2FORM OF CONTRACT, PROCUREMENT Guaranteed maximum price, construction management CLIENT Mitsubishi Estate Company ARCHITECT Allies and Morrison: Bob Allies, Graham Morrison, Timothy Makower, Neil Shaughnessy, Mark Reimer, Mark Camillin, John Morgan, Mike West, Pete Besley, Adam Smit, Mick Haley PROJECT MANAGER Stanhope CONSTRUCTION MANAGER Bovis Lend Lease QUANTITY SURVEYOR (BUILDING) Davis Langdon & Everest QUANTITY SURVEYOR (SERVICES) Mott Green Wall STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Waterman Partnership SERVICES ENGINEER Norman Disney & Young LIGHTING DESIGNER NDY Light FACADE ENGINEERING Arup Facade Engineering PLANNING CONSULTANT Montagu Evans FIRE CONSULTANT Arup Fire TRAFFIC CONSULTANT Halcrow Group ACOUSTIC CONSULTANT Hann Tucker Associates OFFICE AGENT DTZ Debenham Tie Lung RETAIL AGENT Healey & Baker SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS Structure John Doyle Construction; glazed curtain walling, canopies, atrium walls and roof Seele Austria; brick, stone cladding Irvine Whitlock; roof finishes, leadwork Coverite, NDM; drylined partitions BDL Group; ceilings Phoenix Interiors; raised floors Kingspan Access Flooring; soft floor finishes Rees Flooring; metal doors, roller shutters Amber Doors; architectural and general metalwork Graham Welding (Construction) Co; entrance doors, screens Rush Entrances;
decorations Cosmopolitan; internal stone Grants of Shoreditch; WC fit-out, joinery, doors Frank & Whittome; louvres, blinds Levolux; atrium cleaning equipment Atrium Gantrys; mechanical installation Axima Building Services; ductwork Gardner & Co; insulation, fire stopping Abbey Thermal; fire engineering Wormald Fire Systems; BMS, controls Eton Associates; electrical installation T Clark; lift installation Mitsubishi Electric Europe
TENDER DATE March 2001 START ON SITE DATE October 2001 CONTRACT DURATION 68 weeks GROSS INTERNAL FLOOR AREA 33,716m 2PROCUREMENT Construction management CLIENT Mitsubishi Estate Company DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Stanhope CONSTRUCTION MANAGER Bovis Lend Lease ARCHITECT Eric Parry Architects with Sheppard Robson STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Waterman Partnership FACADE ENGINEERING Arup Facade Engineering SERVICES ENGINEER Waterman Gore COST CONSULTANT Davis Langdon & Everest SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS LogisticsWilson James; surveying Site Engineering Surveys; piling Stent Foundations; concrete superstructure John Doyle Construction; steel frame Severfield Reeve Structures; blockwork Irvine Whitlock; curtain walling, atria walls, glazed screens, shopfronts Focchi; entrance doors, canopy Rush Entrances; external stonework Szerelmey; precast concrete Malling Products; roofing Coverite; leadwork NDM; drylining, plasterboard ceilings BDL Group; metal doors Amber Doors; architectural, general metalwork CMF; decorations Cosmopolitan; internal stonework Grants of Shoreditch; WC fit-out, joinery, doors, ironmongery Frank & Whittome; facade, atria cleaning Cradle Runways; mechanical installation Axima Building Services; insulation, fire stopping Abbey Thermal Insulation; louvres Levolux;
ductwork Hotchkiss Ductwork; fire engineeringWormald Ansul (UK); BMS, controls Celsius Energy Control; electrical installation T Clark; lifts Otis; hard landscaping Grants of Shoreditch
MACCORMAC JAMIESON PRICHARD
sanitaryware Duravit; tiles Domus
Allies and Morrison Architects www. alliesandmorrison. co. uk Arup Facade Engineering www. arup. com Arup Fire Engineering, Arup Fire www. arup. com Bovis Lend Lease www. bovislendlease. com Davis Langdon & Everest www. davislangdon. com DTZ Debenham Tie Lung www. dtz. co. uk Eric Parry Architects www. ericparryarchitects. co. uk Halcrow Group www. halcrow. com Hann Tucker Associates www. hanntucker. co. uk Healey & Baker www. healey-baker. com MacCormac Jamieson Prichard www. mjparchitects. co. uk Mitsubishi Estate Company www. mec. co. jp Montagu Evans www. montagu-evans. co. uk Mott Green Wall www. davislangdon. com/mottgreenwall Norman Disney & Young, NDY Light www. ndy. com Sheppard Robson www. sheppardrobson. com Stanhope www. stanhopeplc. com Waterman Partnership www. waterman-group. co. uk