The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment has reignited controversy over the highly sensitive £150 million Paternoster Square development in the City by slamming the new design for the scheme's largest building, by Eric Parry Architects with Sheppard Robson.
In the same week that the first piles were driven on the whole development, the CABE design review committee said that the design for the £45 million building fails to fit in with the masterplan by Sir William Whitfield. The masterplan includes a detailed design for a 9m tall loggia in front of the office building which attempts to separate the public realm of the square from the office buildings. But rather than changing the building, CABE's design review committee said the masterplan must be altered. If this happens, Whitfield warned, the entire scheme could fall apart and accused CABE of unsettling the scheme.
'If anyone starts unpicking it, the whole thing will come to a halt, ' he said. 'Adjustments to the masterplan are OK and have been made in the past but the scheme must not be unpicked.'
The CABE report stated: 'The requirement to design this major new office building to work with a ground floor level loggia which has already been designed in detail is one which should be dropped. A good masterplan should be flexible; it is now apparent that the imposition of the detailed design of the loggia is inflexible and that this is working to the detriment of the most important building in the masterplan.'
The scheme has already been the subject of four years of wrangling with conservationists over its impact on the neighbouring St Paul's Cathedral and Whitfield insists that the loggia is essential to placate them. He said that the loggia, which the Parry scheme currently incorporates, should be a completely separate architectural element and use a separate architectural language to help define the difference between the square and the buildings beyond. But both Parry, and Michael Hopkins & Partners before him, have attempted to incorporate the office block with the loggia, triggering CABE's concerns that the two components are at odds with each other in terms of style.'The evidence of the present scheme leads us to conclude that the loggia and the building above it should be designed by one hand, ' CABE said. Hopkins struggled with incorporating the loggia and left the project last year.
'It was a fairly rigorous masterplan including some more detailed aspects, ' said Hopkins partner Patty Hopkins. 'It was a bit of a nightmare and very difficult, ' she added.
The scheme's joint developer, Stanhope, said that it still retains the copyright on the Hopkins scheme, which already has planning permission, and may revert to this design if CABE's recommendations prove a major hurdle to winning planning consent on the Parry scheme. But Stanhope, which is managing the project with Mitsubishi Estates Company, played down CABE's criticisms of the masterplan.'There needs to be greater harmony between the infrastructure and the building and this will be resolved over the next couple of weeks, ' said director David Camp. See page 16.