Something seems profoundly wrong here if this has been commissioned without public engagement or even a proper transparent public call?. As pointed out by Martin Knight AJ article 29 Oct the cost at £175m ‘is around 7 times that of the Millennium Bridge and, much better value might be gained in supporting multiple upgraded and new river crossings in a variety of locations, including the footbridge proposed between Pimlico and Nine Elms (by TfL estimate £40 m).’
Public Square seems a disingenuous description of this back alley space. As with many of the other spaces being created around Nine Elms I can't see how sunlight will penetrate when the proportions of the adjacent buildings and there orientations are so high relative to the scale of the ground space. Decent public squares in our climate needs some warmth and potential for activity other than passing through, but the renders don't appear to indicate the reality. For most of the year this space will be heavily occluded. This lack of warmth, play of light and colour is further diminished by the multi-level circulation. Given the proportions of the canyons being created and exposure at one location to the west I also question what wind tunnel effects might be expected. Sadly it seems climate and context are absent. Walter Menteth
Comment on: Top UK talents to design Czech housing scheme
A review of all the submissions for this interesting scheme would be really welcome. It appears a truly fascinating exemplar that we might all learn a lot from.
Martin Knights points are very well put. Placing infrastructure investment alternatively in other areas along the riverside with multiple upgrades and new crossings would contribute more to public benefit. And do so without detriment to the existing amenity and iconic views. The central fallacy is the concentrated focus on public investment at the Southbank. This is now misplaced. The same issue underlines proposals to the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The post war ‘Festival of Britain’ vision for opening up this area into a cultural hub for Londoners has been successful. Its now time to move on. As the city has grown, we should engage a new wider vision for Londoners spreading more and better cultural and public amenity to other riverside locations. As Martin Knight points out the cost of this project is exorbitant, and probably sufficient to establish both a new crossing and new cultural hub. Then add to this the QEH costs. Why not for example invest at Nine Elms? London has many parks but only one river, so lets make more of this unique asset. This proposal is short of vision, nothing but a vanity project and with the power of populist visualisations - usurping logic and reason.
Comment on: Starchitects team up for Olympicopolis bids
There is enormous benefit in competitive selection based on design quality which can allow young and small practices to compete on a level playing field, to advance creative and innovative practice and produce higher quality construction. But because there are so few UK Design Contests each then attracts large numbers, this is a Catch 22. Restrictions such as those at the Olympicoplois are placed on competitors to thin down numbers. Design contests are not then open. At one level this has become a necessity. For example the ongoing Gugenheim Helsinki Competition Contest attracted 1,715 1st stage submissions. Average costs for Design Contest submissions (RIBA Procurement Survey 2012) amount to £5,000, which on the Helsinki 1st stage amounts to the profession expending more than euro 10.9m (over 8.3% of the construction budget). In such cases I believe the profession is being drained excessively for the clients benefit. To allow more design contests to occur on a level playing field that can offer better access and which are particularly suitable for less prestigious commissions they need to be more attractive to clients and the profession alike. The best route to achieve this is to develop access using new approaches such as the optional sortition system (RIBA Building Ladders of Opportunity Report) which places more reliance on the intelligent professionalism of architects. Where clients perceive risks might be excessive otherwise this can be addressed by the continental principle of allowing winning young practices to enter into production collaborations with established firms, and also by establishing base scales of honoraria for shortlisted participants. Together these principles allow Design Contests to be shaped more equitably for all. Denys Lasdun produced his first significant building aged 21. This was in a culture which perceived opportunity and professionalism as a benefit not a risk. It is time the profession engaged more fully with ensuring access, opportunity and reward are improved.