Developer Minerva has launch a bitter attack on the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (cabe) for interfering and threatening its plans to build a major Foster and Partners building in the City of London. cabe's new design-review panel wrote to the architects last week, branding the prominent 40,000m2 scheme opposite Cannon Street Station as potentially 'hostile' to its environment and in need of a complete redesign, but the developer has taken issue with the views.
Minerva chief executive Andrew Rosenfeld told the aj this week: 'I've only got one thing to say and that's that we feel that the content and the timing of the cabe representation is an outrage.'
Minerva submitted the 10-storey project for planning permission in August, having bought the site from Lord Palumbo's family trust for £87.5 million. It was submitted alongside a scheme for a 14 storey, 52,500m2 Nicholas Grimshaw-designed building, St Boltoph's House. Together the buildings represent one of the largest development proposals in the City since Broadgate and have a combined end value of £800 million.
'Both have been going exceedingly well' said Rosenfeld, 'they're something that the City wants and needs.'
The Foster scheme is proposed for the corner of Cannon Street and Walbrook and adjoining Wren's church of St Stephen Walbrook. cabe said: 'We consider that this design falls a long way short of the very high standards set by this practice, which has in other projects done brilliant work in historic contexts. The stone fins and cornice, which we presume are conceived as 'contextual' elements, are unconvincing and do not appear integral to the design'.
cabe also criticised the junction with the adjoining building in Cannon Street where a tapering section of the party wall is revealed, showing the new building's 'lack of concern for its surroundings'. It said the building 'would not be worthy of this important site' but conjectured how much of the resulting design was in response to external suggestions - believed to be from the planners and English Heritage, 'perhaps against the architects' better judgment'.
cabe has suggested that Foster and Partners give the scheme a 'fairly fundamental reappraisal.'
l The design-review panel gave its support to the Foster and Partners pfi scheme to develop the western half of the Treasury offices - for cabe chief Stuart Lipton's Stanhope. Treasury staff are to move into that part of the building, freeing the other side for new, as-yet-undetermined uses. cabe described the scheme as 'simple and intelligent' and hoped it would be an exemplar of low-energy environmental strategies.
... as CABE slams RHWL over Guinness HQ design ...
cabe also attacked a rhwl-designed proposal to build a new headquarters for Guinness on a prominent site in Park Royal, north London.
Its design panel said the architects have used 'the wrong tone' and needed to give it a total rethink, branding the manipulation of the plan 'unnecessarily complicated' with 'unresolved and arbitrary' relations between stone and metal elements. It suggested that the building, which will be joined by eight more around a new central open space with a lake, needed to be of the same quality as other buildings from the first half of the century on the capital's arterial roads.
l The Alan J Smith Partnership has succeeded in transforming initial Royal Fine Art Commission disdain into cabe satisfaction after reworking plans for a hotel in Durham at Framwellgate Waterside. It said it was 'a considerable improvement' on the earlier attempt and that CABE would have no objection to it being given planning permission.
... and makes eight-point pledge on the Internet
cabe has now gone live with its website (aj 28.10.99) and has used it to make an eight-point pledge to raise standards in England.
The basic, low-cost site at www.cabe.org.uk went live on Monday. The commission has included links to pages about cabe's first-year targets, press notices, design review reports, organisational structure, and links to 'how you can help' and 'having your say'. But one of the most interesting features is a list of the body's objectives. These are to:
enable, enthuse and educate government, local authorities and the private client, making good architecture central to the nation's vision of itself
facilitate and co-ordinate the design and construction process, including architect selection, brief writing, construction on time, quality, cost and environmental issues
champion good new architecture
address the spaces between buildings and promote a high quality public realm
address the social dimension of architecture
harness the popular desire for high-quality environments and help ensure that questions of value as well as cost inform public policy-making
stimulate and encourage all those entrusted with building in England, a nd,
address deficiencies and promote good practice in the construction industry generally and in particular the design and procurement of public buildings and social and speculative housing.