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HOK stages shock Barts comeback

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HOK is set to astonish its detractors by winning planning permission for its highly contentious Barts and the Royal London PFI proposal in Whitechapel.

In what will be seen as an amazing architectural comeback, the practice's London office has now won the partial support of CABE and is understood to be confident of picking up the support of Tower Hamlets planners.

The turnaround is a direct response to a major design review of the Skanska-led project that resulted in highly significant changes to the 'super hospital' proposals.

These alterations - instigated after both CABE and the Greater London Authority savaged the original designs (AJ 12.8.04) - include the demolition of the existing listed East Wing building, with the support of English Heritage, and the creation of a massive new public space.

Other changes take in a series of new entrances, a reorganised accident and emergency department,

and a thorough rethink of the site's circulation.

And a letter from CABE senior design review adviser Ben van Bruggen welcomed the changes. 'It is to the credit of the [NHS] Trust, Skanska and HOK that they persevere with consultation and continue to seek ways of improving the design, ' it says.

'We congratulate all on proposing the strategic move that fundamentally improves the urban scale of the scheme. We hope that this bold thinking will continue on the elevations, ' the letter adds.

A source inside HOK told the AJ that they feel the 'corner has now been turned'. 'This is great news and we feel that we may now be on the way, ' the source added.

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets said the revised scheme was to go in front of the council's planning committee on 24 November but insisted that planners had not yet made a decision.

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