I am often concerned when architects 'get into bed' with developers. Terry Farrell's latest housing scheme in Swiss Cottage, London, takes me beyond concern. Designed with Barratt Homes, Farrell's obscure design is given the mandatory developers tag-line and is known as the 'Visage'.
Situated adjacent to Basil Spence's seminal 1960s Modernist public library (recently refurbished by John McAslan + Partners), the private flats replace a public baths and leisure centre, which were demolished despite huge local protest. The developers would argue that the new scheme comprises a brand new leisure centre, complete with pool. This is true, although the new pool is 8m smaller and the open-air pitches have been replaced with cross-training machines and exercise bikes (which is a much more efficient use of space, thank you Mr Developer).
But it is not just the social problems of building a block of private flats that start at £400,000 next to an existing local authority estate that troubles me. As an architect, I obviously have a strong opinion on how the development looks.
You can argue that appreciation of architecture from an aesthetic point of view is, by definition, subjective. But I am of the view that some things go beyond subjectivity and are just, well, ugly.
For one of the UK's leading architects to put his name to this development leaves me wondering what type of architectural legacy we are leaving for future generations. On completion, I expect Spence's library will still provide more lessons for the progression of quality architecture in the UK than Farrell's 'Visage'.
It's not the kind of visage I'd like to wake up to. Farrell should be more careful who he 'gets into bed with' the night before? Matt Green, Swiss Cottage, London