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RMJM DISMISSES CABE CRITIQUE

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AGENDA

When RMJM fi rst submitted its Princes Dock scheme in Liverpool for planning it led to a stinging attack from CABE.

The design watchdog labelled the scheme 'joyless', claiming the designs looked more like an 'office block than a mixed-use building'.

But Roger Whiteman, director of RMJM's London office, has hit back at the comments, claiming CABE failed to understand the development.

In fact, according to RMJM, the consultation process revealed a bias that the watchdog all too often falls victim to.

Whiteman says: 'The resubmitted scheme shows there is more to architecture than the paper-thin fishapismfl which is fast becoming the norm of the new generation of architects.

'Many of the schemes we see now are to do with experimenting with shapes and trying to experiment with colours, which is all fairly abstract. But I'm not sure that this is always appropriate.'

The Princes Dock design, Whiteman says, takes its lead from the strong geometrical grid, the historic grain of Liverpool's old industrial docks, and the listed dock wall, rather than the abstract shapes generated as the city centre moves down the hill to Bath Street and the Strand.

'I don't think CABE's comments were fair, ' he adds.

'Rectangular it may be, but a boring box it is definitely not.

To say our scheme is more like an office block is oversimplistic.'

Whiteman also claims that CABE did not understand the layering of the elevations and the character that RMJM was trying to create with the layering.

'I don't think they fully understood our proposals and I'm not sure they even received the full design report we submitted, ' he adds.

The £80 million project originally proposed a 37-storey tower, providing a 135-room hotel along with 183 residential apartments. The scheme has since been partly redesigned.

The tower now stands at 30 storeys, and the proposals have been resubmitted.

A major issue surrounding the Princes Dock scheme is its location. The project sits within Liverpool's World Heritage buffer zone, and is subject to extreme scrutiny to avoid it detracting from the views of Liverpool's 'Three Graces'.

RMJM was quick to point out that the scheme has not simply been reduced, and that the project is at the forefront of sustainable design.

'We worked closely with the city planners and English Heritage to rework the basic designs, ' says Whiteman.

'The designs focus on reducing carbon emissions through energy-efficient and energy-generating systems.

The proposals have since been resubmitted and hopefully we will gain planning permission by the end of February.'

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