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Hadid and Barber propose Mount Pleasant alternatives

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Opposition to the Royal Mail’s housing scheme at its Mount Pleasant site in Clerkenwell has mounted after locally based architects Peter Barber and Zaha Hadid both expressed interest in developing alternative design

Earlier this month London mayor Boris Johnson approved the Royal Mail’s 680-home plan – by architects Allies and Morrison, Wilkinson Eyre, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris – despite opposition from the boroughs straddling the site, Camden and Islington, and local campaigners, who have branded the scheme ‘fortress-like’.

However, Royal Mail does not have a developer, and the mayor has encouraged local group the Mount Pleasant Association to work up a rival planning application after it commissioned Francis Terry to work up a preliminary design concept.

Peter Barber of Peter Barber Architects – which is based in nearby King’s Cross and recently completed a neighbouring homeless hostel Mount Pleasant Studios – revealed he had worked up a high-density, low-rise social housing scheme for the site called Coldbath Town.

He said: ‘I don’t know the [Royal Mail] scheme well, but I have the sense that, in common with a lot of current projects, it creates more open space than is required.

‘With Coldbath Town, I was thinking of places like the Brighton Lanes, Barceloneta and north African urbanism – bits of cities that people absolutely adore being in. It’s the antithesis of say, the Olympic Park.’

Barber added that Coldbath Town would provide inexpensive accommodation for around 100 small businesses and 2,000 homes for people on low incomes.

‘The central part of the town is made of tiny, thick-walled courtyard buildings, mostly two and three storeys high,’ he said, ‘which define a system of streets and alleys that criss-cross the area, opening out in places into small squares [and] narrowing in place to little more than a metre.’

Hadid expressed interest in working on the site during a talk at Tate Modern last week.

She described the mayor’s approval of the Royal Mail scheme as ‘terrible’, but said she was not criticising the four architects behind the proposal.

Royal Mail’s scheme would provide 163 affordable units, representing 24 per cent of the total number of homes.

Royal Mail’s property director Martin Gafsen has vowed to ‘continue to work with the GLA, local authorities, businesses and the community’ in order to progress with its development.

Previous story (AJ 01.10.14)

Mayor to rule on Mount Pleasant


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