The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment has given Foster and Partners' 'World Squares For All' masterplan a major boost by backing the £17 million first phase proposals at its latest design review meeting.
cabe said last week it 'strongly supports the scheme', which will prove useful ammunition both for when the project passes before the capital's incoming mayor, and against criticism by client group member Westminster City Council's own planning and transport committee (aj 30.3.00).
'We regard this scheme as an elegant and inventive solution to a complex problem and we would like to see it go ahead,' said cabe.
The commission added that it thought that new pedestrianised spaces in Irving Place and St Martin's Place, north of the square, are 'very important and offer considerable benefits' and should be an integral part of the scheme - whose key plank is pedestrianising the north side of Trafalgar Square to link it to the National Gallery.
A 'delighted' Fosters' partner Spencer de Grey told the AJ that he felt the cabe support was important in setting up the scheme for the mayor's approval: 'It could be enacted in his or her first term and I think everybody would welcome a better balance between pedestrians and traffic', he said. 'And this could be a blueprint for other sites elsewhere in the capital'. A planning application will be submitted 'in the second half of this year' and the project could be complete in two years time.
cabe 's reservations concern the enlarged island to the south of Trafalgar Square, proposed to give the Charles I statue there a better setting, which it thought is 'compromised' and in need of 'stronger expression', but de Grey said more work would be done. cabe also wants less tree-planting.
World Squares aims to set what Foster has called 'an international standard for city living' along the lines of places like Barcelona. The full £50 million plans include an enhanced Whitehall as a proposed second phase, the pedestrianisation of the south side of Parliament Square as a third and final phase, but other smaller, incremental steps such as the closure of Horse Guards Road.
cabe also saw a scheme by epr Architects for a 47,000m2 office and retail complex in Westminster's Victoria Street (AJ 9.3.00). It applauded the attempt to make 'a new piece of city which connects with its surroundings', but attacked its 'strange and unsatisfactory relationship to the edge of the glazed canopy' and 'overplayed' glazed roof.