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Reaction: Profession responds to Shuttleworth's Broadgate scheme

Last week’s defence by Ken Shuttleworth of his practice’s controversial 5 Broadgate scheme in the City of London provoked a flurry of responses from AJ readers

Among the more contentious comments made by the MAKE founder included his thoughts on the merits of the existing 1980s Arup Associates-designed buildings which may yet be recommend for listing by English Heritage later this month.

He said: ‘I’m  incredulous some people think that No 4 and No 6 Broadgate are worth preserving in their own right. They are not wonderful. Even Peter Foggo, the architect who designed them, didn’t like them.’

Make’s 5 Broadgate scheme was approved by the City of London’s planning committee last month.

Read the full transcript here

Reaction:

Rab Bennetts of Bennetts Associates said: ‘Having worked with Peter Foggo on the early stages of Broadgate I’m not among the sentimentalists who feel that the scheme should not change.  The existing buildings are not perfect and there is no reason why a good masterplan and public realm should not improve with continual regeneration over time.  However, it is also easy to overlook that Broadgate won the equivalent of the Stirling Prize in its day - then called the RIBA Building of the Year - so it is important that any replacement buildings should be of the very highest quality.  Although listing the buildings seems inappropriate to me, perhaps the Conservation Area test should be applied, whereby a new development should enhance what’s there.  Ken Shuttleworth already knows that my own reservations about Make’s scheme are about its architectural language, which is far more business-park than radical.  It certainly doesn’t ring true as a ‘green’ building, as it cannot avoid being deep plan and fully air-conditioned. ‘ 

Stuart Lipton, the original developer behind Broadgate in the 1980s said: ‘Ken Shuttleworth is a brilliant architect who I’ve worked with for more than 25 years and he produced for me more than ten really good buildings. While I know him well  I never knew that clairvoyance - in terms that what Peter Foggo would have thought - was one of his skills.  The strength of Broadgate is not the individual buildings but the whole place.  This is what makes it unusual and this is what has proved so popular. 

The statement that Peter Foggo who designed them, didn’t like them is just not true

The comment that the buildings are no longer fit for purpose is slightly strange.  One Finsbury Avenue designed by Peter Foggo has been restacked four or five times with major changes over the last 25 years of its life by UBS the occupier from day one for most of the building. The current buildings are energy efficient and have a steel structure.  They were designed so that trading floors could be added or deleted so they have a future life span with some mechanical update of many years. 

The statement that Peter Foggo who designed them, didn’t like them is just not true.  His response to our challenge to produce stone buildings and his was a modern interpretation of a traditional flat stone façade.  He took the challenge of stone and had absolute delight in producing a series of facades which where layered to provide solar protection and a breakdown of the mass of the building. 
He was particularly delighted that when it came to the planning application for 100 Liverpool Street the planning committee approved the triple façade he proposed which had not had the support of Peter Rees.  Lillian Foggo has confirmed my understanding that to Peter, Broadgate was his best piece and that he certainly would not have wished to see buildings demolished.  That isn’t to say that the buildings can’t be adapted or joined.  Observation of the existing group of buildings around the square shows how they respond to the needs of their tenants – three of the four buildings where designed specifically for their tenants. Shuttleworth could do something skillful with the buildings and no one is suggesting that they need preserving in aspic. My experience is that the needs of city occupiers have not changed significantly since the 1980s.’

A statement from Foggo Associates said: Those of us at Foggo Associates who had the privilege of working with Peter  know he was immensely proud of what the design group he led at Arup Associates, the client and contractors had achieved with the early phases of the Broadgate development.

The buildings, although substantial, act as a backdrop and containment to the public spaces

The fact that Broadgate is now perceived to be such a prestigious City address is testament to the success of the project and the vision of its creators. Key to the success of the early phases of the Broadgate development is the public realm: Finsbury Avenue Square and the Broadgate Arena are knitted into the historic urban fabric of the area with pedestrian routes between and through the Broadgate buildings. The buildings, although substantial, act as a backdrop and containment to the public spaces. The design of the exterior of these buildings was carefully considered to provide articulation and scale to these spaces. Foggo was not one to dwell on the past and believed passionately in the benefits of progress. However he believed the future should endeavour to be humanely and artistically better than the past. While we at Foggo Associates have our own thoughts on these particular matters, whether Peter Foggo would have been convinced by the arguments for the demolition of nos. 4 and 6 Broadgate, and the necessity and appropriateness of the currently proposed replacement building we would consider doubtful.’

Richard Simmons, former chief executive of CABE said: ’CABE’s design review panel had some concerns about the architectural treatment of MAKE’s design but concluded that it was an appropriate response to the genius loci.

Broadgate is big and bold enough to take this scale of change but I respect the alternative point of view

MAKE’s building exploits rather than abandons the strength of Broadgate’s public realm, so it comes down to whether that strength is sufficient to allow for the kinds of changes that the City traditionally absorbs, or whether the composition is so vital to the success of the place that it cannot adapt externally. Broadgate is big and bold enough to take this scale of change but I respect the alternative point of view. It’s a choice. That’s why we have a democratic planning system. ‘

Phil Doyle of 5plus Architects said: ‘Most architects and, perhaps more importantly, the general public, love Broadgate because of the quality of its urban design, its pioneering approach to placemaking, the way it incorporates some brilliant pieces of art and the way it has been carefully managed and maintained over a substantial period of time. Broadgate was a reaction to the post war concrete ‘precinct’ where stylised forms were the norm and the perception was that architects pursued their own ego. Broadgate stands for a different set of principles where the spaces in between buildings and how they are experienced by those that inhabit them are more important.  From the limited information I’ve seen Make’s scheme seems to go against these principles.’

David Anderson, director at Broadway Malyan said: ‘The Broadgate debate heralds a welcome discussion on workplace design at a time in the UK when significant opportunities for innovation and invention have become threatened by economic conditions brought about by a banking crisis. It is ironic, yet perhaps appropriate, that as the BCO Conference gets underway in Geneva, which will explore new issues in a new world order, that the Swiss bank UBS has created the fertile ground for such debate to highlight one of our capital’s most important place making opportunities.  
‘Place making is about offering back to the context through design, when much is inevitably taken from it, as increasing pressure for urbanisation places increasing stress on what commercial development can yield from every square metre of real estate.
21 Century offices are 24/7 environments, occupied at higher densities for longer, so the supporting infrastructure, the public realm, the retail, F+B and social spaces, and the connecting streets and accessibility need to add to the setting in an inspiring and uplifting way. The buildings, as objects in space, demand an architecture appropriate to their setting, designed to reflect client needs and having regard to their wider public audience. Architecture should have a significant positive impact on its users wellbeing.

Using the internal combustion engine as a metaphor is baffling and seems entirely inappropriate

‘Good progressive urban design is not about shouting loudest, but about how to take the next confident step in the continual evolution of the character of the place. Losing the passage between four and six may be forgivable but, little is offered back to the public realm, for example a proper space at Sun St Square and not just a label.
‘Good sustainable design should reflect not just its own time but stand the test of time. Using the internal combustion engine as a metaphor is baffling and seems entirely inappropriate. A more harmonious and less alienating solution is surely what the banking sector should be promoting in this new era.
‘MAKE’s 5 Broadgate sends a strong message about the ability of our capital city to meet the changing needs of business in a global market, but could well be an opportunity missed to create a truly world class place.’ 

Peter Wilson, director of the Wood Studio at Edinburgh Napier University’s Forest Products Research Institute, said: ‘On the face of it, Shuttleworth’s new-found affection for groundscrapers is diametrically opposed to Zaha Hadid’s recently expressed desire to build tall in the City of London, a location in which high density and consequent land values have historically mitigated against MAKE’s current approach. Energy saving is apparently now the name of the game, but the ‘less is more’ imperative this implies now it seems, must be dissociated from any formal Miesian interpretation. Sadly, illustrations of the proposed building look decidedly pedestrian and, in terms of contextual design, more the scraping of a well-worn barrel than a scraping of the ground.’

Alan Dunlop of Alan Dunlop Architects said: ‘The project may have high energy saving and low carbon credentials but what discourages me and I think others is the brutality of the renders. It comes across strongly  as an ‘in your face’ project. Absolutely at odds with the sensibilities that Shuttleworth seems so interested in and is trying to convey. Consequently, there is no sense at all that there is a sensitive architect at work here, interested in doing his best for the environment, his client and the site. It may be a great project, Shuttleworth may be a fine architect…but God the renders make the building look damn ugly.’  

Tim Godsmark of Godsmark Architecture said: ‘When Ken Shuttleworth left Forster he had the reputation of being the lead designer of many of Foster’s most important buildings. Perhaps in a conscious effort to turn his back on the achievements of previous years he has turned his back on the elegance and sophistication of those buildings and appears to have replaced it with a facile, gimmicky and to be honest ugly approach.
‘The Broadgate building appears from the drawings to be lumpen with arbitrary cut-outs and windows which might have worked at a small scale but look bombastic as a massive block. If Broadgate is about the master plan creating a building that fitted into its context more comfortably would seem to be obvious.
It may be unfair to pick on Ken Shuttleworth as the only one responsible for this but he is the figurehead of the company and it is him that is giving interviews about the work. He is also the one who is making rather bitchy comments about the “cynical use of stone” in the original Broadgate buildings. These may have been a product of 1980’s commercial architecture but the stone latticework to the elevations provides a depth to the facade and a play of light and shadow that will be unfortunately missing from the smooth facades of Make’s proposals. They are also facades that have stood up well to 25 years of weathering and I would question whether metal panels will look as good in another quarter century.’

 

 

Readers' comments (2)

  • I think Mr Shuttleworth needs to take a crash course in humility. His assertion that his gimmicky and rather average building is a 'sea change' is conceited and deluded whilst his apparently untrue comments about Peter Foggo are bordering on offensive.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Editor's comment: To clarify, I understand Ken Shuttleworth was actually repeating something the City's planning officer Peter Rees had said about Peter Foggo.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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