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Astragal: ‘Grotesque and inappropriate’ – it’s a thumbs down for HS2 viaducts

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Designs have been unveiled for two new viaducts carrying High Speed 2 trains across parts of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Contractor Eiffage Kier says it has gone to great lengths to reduce their impact, designing them to sit close to the ground and with a concrete barrier to shield the area from noise.

Yet despite these innovations, the proposals have not gone down well. One anti-HS2 campaigner described them as ‘hideous concrete Stalinist designs’, while Murray Cooke, from the Wendover HS2 Action Group, branded the plans ‘grotesque and inappropriate’. 

Was it only six years ago that then transport secretary Justine Greening said of HS2: ‘What we should be aiming for is to have a level of quality of design that in decades to come people will look back on and think you know what, they built a railway but it was so much more than that’? 

No free lunches for ex-RIBA chief 

Harry rich crop

Harry rich crop

Interesting news has emerged about the return of former RIBA chief executive Harry Rich into the public spotlight.

Given his mysterious and never-fully-explained departure from the institute in January 2016, eyebrows were raised when he was unveiled as the government’s next lobbying tsar – a role that arose in response to public fears about a lack of transparency over who had the ear of government.

His £420 a day, 40 days a year, job is to oversee the government’s register of consultant lobbyists. Anyone lobbying while not on the register can face criminal proceedings.

Rich’s interview for the role was an open affair with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee quizzing him over his suitability.  

Topics covered included how he would handle being asked out for a free lunch by a lobbying organisation on the register.

Rich replied: ‘I would not take any real or apparent gifts or benefits of that kind. I don’t need a free lunch. I can go and buy my sandwiches at Pret A Manger or something.’

So if you do want a quiet word in Harry’s shell-like, perhaps loiter around the brie, tomato and basil baguettes at the nearest store in Tothill Street …

Will wildflower centre bloom again?

Wildflower 2

Wildflower 2

The pictures of Hodder + Partners’ rotting, trashed and failed National Wildflower Centre in Knowsley are hard to forget. The tragically decomposing 160m-long visitor centre at the heart of a larger complex in Court Hey Park, east of Liverpool city centre, was less than two decades old when it closed last year.

After Landlife, the charity that had run the centre since its opening in 2001, went into liquidation, the award-winning, ‘inhabited wall’ was simply abandoned.

In June 2017, however, Knowsley Council, which retook possession of the land, sought a new future for the Millennium project and invited expressions of interest to reimagine the site.

It has now emerged that this initiative came to nothing with no submissions being adopted.

But hope springs eternal. Word on the street is that the council is going to have a second crack at finding a workable proposal over the coming weeks.

Any flora-loving architects fancy throwing their ideas into the ring? 

For sale: one micro-home, toilet not included

Micro home with simon

Micro home with simon

A micro-home erected near Old Street roundabout for the London Design Festival is being auctioned off to benefit the Architecture Foundation.

The three-storey Living Unit, currently located behind AHMM’s White Collar Factory, was designed by Slovenian architect OFIS Arhitekti working with engineer AKT II. It is currently up for sale on eBay with the highest bid standing at £7,600 at the time of writing.

Bidding ends on 27 September so there is still a chance to snap it up.

And while the timber frame structure is certainly micro by housing standards, it is classified as ‘giant’ by eBay given that it stands more than 60 inches high –  319 inches to be precise.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It’s not that the viaducts are ugly, it’s that the project is the whitest of elephants. All that money to save 25 mins door to door? CPOs anyone? Gertcha, as the Whitechapel geezers used to sing.

    Sorting out the permanent way and management structure, branch lines, structure gauge, traction, etc of the existing network is far more important? It just illustrates that the project is being driven by the concrete contractors? Get a grip and plan the whole system for the benefit of all? A public/private partnership as Christian Wolmar suggests.

    Come on Lansley. Get on with it, or on your bike. How many times do we have to walk this talk?

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