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Gaunt Francis back at drawing board after CABE mauls St Katharine Docks

Gaunt Francis Architects' (GFA) contentious £120 million rejuvenation of London's St Katharine Docks has been forced back to the drawing board following a slating from CABE.

A proposal to replace an existing office block, known as Devon House, with a curved, nine-storey residential structure has been binned after the architectural watchdog called the scheme 'muddled'.

GFA says it has now radically transformed the original design ( pictured) into three orthogonal residential blocks together with an art gallery, a café and a retail unit.

GFA partner Alan Francis said: 'It is being totally redesigned and we are getting rid of the curving form. Our original design creates a large riverside realm but only one entry point. By creating three buildings, we can create more access to a better riverside space.'

The scheme's landmark 17-storey elliptical tower is also being remodelled after CABE labelled elements 'awkward and unstable'.

Commenting on the tower, CABE's design review panel said: 'The canted column, the connection to the existing hotel, the winter gardens and the detailed elevational treatment do not come together successfully and fight against the clarity of the elegant elliptical form. We are unsure why the canted column is proposed - it looks awkward and unstable, and is at odds with the overall idea.'

Defending GFA's original vision, Francis said the practice 'may make elevational changes' but not until it has digested the results of an environmental report being conducted by consulting engineer Max Fordham.

'We believe environmental performance will lead us to a solution on how to treat elevations in this building,' added Francis.

The CABE body blow comes amid growing public opposition to GFA's masterplan, which was submitted to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in January this year. A month later locals launched a bid to block the project, claiming it did not respect historic buildings and surrounding heritage sites. (AJ 06.02.06).

by Clive Walker

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