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Railtrack ushers in Wilkinson for London Bridge Station

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Railtrack has acted on the advice of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment by bringing in Wilkinson Eyre as a consultant on its massive £400 million TP Bennett-designed proposals for London Bridge Station.

A company spokesman said Wilkinson was an architect renowned for the kind of 'engineering-led, crisp architecture' Railtrack wants.

'We think he'll bring a new dimension to the design and we wanted someone with the weight to acknowledge cabe's standpoint,' he said.

Railtrack's plans to recast the commuter hub as a shopping and office complex, featuring an eight-storey 'air rights' tower, were revealed by the aj two months ago (aj 24.2.00). The plans, which represent a trebling of the station's retail space to 7500m2 and figure as part of Railtrack's wider £1billion station upgrade, then went under the scrutiny of one of cabe's design review panels.

But while cabe 'strongly supported the strategic thinking behind the project', as well as its vision and ambition, it criticised the architects for lacking boldness in carrying out a north-south surgical cut. cabe said that TP Bennett's design was too much like 'an anonymous shopping mall'. It failed to come across as part of a railway station, its public areas were not generous enough, and detailed planning of the concourse did not live up to the clarity of the original idea. The scheme showed 'a lack of clear thinking' and needed 'fundamental improvements'. 'In our view, this project would benefit from the advice of an outside consultant architect of considerable standing, who would contribute a new and strong architectural strategy and a clear and coherent architectural language to realise the potential of the diagram,' said cabe.

Railtrack's development manager on London Bridge, Steve Wood, worked with Wilkinson in the past and came up with his name after cabe's advice. The practice is experienced in wide-span structures, which will be important when dealing with the £150 million office tower, which sits on a raft across the station platforms and reaches 67m above street level. Wilkinson Eyre will be a consultant architect with TP Bennett still leading the project, and will be contributing to the designs over the next months. 'We think they fit perfectly,' said the spokesman.

David Taylor

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