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Astragal: The unicorn has rejected your planning application

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Losing the rill to liveHousing expo undoneLess biscuity, still chunky

A curious tale recently doing the rounds told of an intriguing spat between architects and an ‘overzealous’ conservation officer at Bristol Council

David Martyn, also an architect and self-described ‘conservation sheriff of the wild west’, was reported to have been accused by local practices of holding up planning applications and then adding salt to the wound through his overactive Twitter account. 

As part of the hashtag game #badlyexplainyourjob, Martyn – tweeting as @archidave – said he was ‘destroying dreams and standing in the way of progress by saying old stuff is nice’. 

In another he tweeted a photo of himself brandishing a pink unicorn glove puppet (pictured), captioned: ‘Mr Grunwald considers your listed building application invalid’. 

Architects – including Bristol’s former mayor George Ferguson – did not find this funny and complained, prompting @archidave to delete his Twitter account and go to ground. 

Strangely, the story was not reported by a local hack but by the BBC’s Roger Harrabin, begging the question: what is the broadcaster’s award-winning environment analyst doing writing about a planning row involving a man and his glove-puppet sidekick?

Losing the rill to live

Morelondon water

Morelondon water

There has been much sadness down at Foster + Partners’ More London office development, which sits next to City Hall and Tower Bridge. Disgruntled office workers have been tweeting their annoyance after workmen began filling in the distinctive ‘rill’ – a 260m-long water channel which flows through the development’s limestone paving. 

Nobody knows why this has been done, but ‘health and safety gone mad’ seems to be the prime suspect.

The infill work, designed by Arup, has yet to receive planning permission, but it seems unlikely that Southwark Council will dare order developer Broadgate Estates to rip up the paving now being laid. 

Respondents to the application may well feel their comments have been made in vain. One says: ‘In a city filled with contradictions and confusion, the rill has always seemed to me the perfect expression of connection between old and new, between natural and human made.’ 

Rumours that the dangerous drowning hazard that is the River Thames is next to be paved over are believed to be unfounded.

Housing Expo undone by funding Catch 22 

Whatever happened to the very promising idea for a London Housing Expo, dreamt up by Ben Derbyshire, Peter Murray and Deyan Sudjic last year?

Enquiries reveal that the GLA provided seed funding for exhaustive feasibility work, and the expo idea appeared as a paragraph in the Draft London Plan. 

But, Astragal understands, the thinking swung from one large site (in the style of a German IBA building exhibition), possibly at Barking Riverside, to multiple mini-expos all around London – even though this format would have required substantial up-front funding. 

Sadly, the mayor balked at this, with the GLA telling the Expo team it would only support the project if it could prove it did not need their support.

Could this Catch 22 approach to such entrepreneurial thinking have anything to do with the aftermath of the Garden bridge fiasco?

Less biscuity, if still a bit chunky

Olympicopolis before and after

Olympicopolis before and after

Biscuit Boys-loathing Peter Cook seems to have been placated – at least in part – by the redesign of the cultural development formerly known as Olympicopolis which he had lambasted in 2016 as ‘under-amplified Vivaldi’. 

Speaking while on a trip to Portugal, where he said the architecture was ‘so much better than anything we see in London’, Cook sounded resigned to Allies and Morrison and O’Donnell + Tuomey’s ‘East Bank’. His verdict? ‘Better than the previous version but it’s a still a bit chunky.’ 

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