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MJP head demands rebuild of Southwark Tube ticket office

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The practice that designed the demolition-threatened ticket hall at Southwark Underground Station is calling for it to be rebuilt in any new development 

Last week the government rejected a listing bid for the hall, designed by MJP Architects, which opened in 1999 as part of a series of stations built by big name architects for the Jubilee Line extension. 

Although the circular ticket hall was always intended to be built over, the original design team led by the late Richard MacCormac’s practice had only envisaged a scheme of up to 11 storeys.

However, it is understood that Transport for London – together with its development partner U+I and architect AHMM – want to go significantly higher, possibly up to 30 storeys (see visualisations in early feasibility report).  

The existing foundations below the ticket hall would not be able to support such a major development and the structure would have to be flattened.

MJP Architects is now calling on the developer to rebuild the ticket hall and for its reconstruction to be made a planning condition.

Practice managing director Jeremy Estop said: ‘A new ticket hall will need to be built, and there is no reason why the simple circular form and detailing of the original ticket hall could not be rebuilt within the new building…

’For a building which has been recognised for its high architectural quality, rebuilding the ticket hall to match the existing design would not be an unreasonable planning condition, even if not listed.’

Alan Baxter, who carried out a listing assessment for Transport for London, admitted that ‘the station [did] exhibit architecture of good quality and is of some architectural interest’.

But his report concluded that the building, being less than 30 years old, was not of ‘outstanding quality’ and therefore couldn’t be granted a Grade II* listing.

The subsequent rejection notice issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government said: ‘[The] very high level of engineering and architectural interest expected of a building of such recent date, and the acknowledged exceptional integration of art within transport infrastructure, do not extend to the ticket hall.’

Letter in full - Jeremy Estop, managing director, MJP

It is disappointing to read of the plans to change the ticket hall at Southwark Station. Details of the proposed development are not yet available and we do not know the extent of demolition that may be proposed or what form the replacement ticket hall may take. However, I would make the following observations:

The chain of new stations on the Jubilee Line extension was an extraordinary achievement. It was a massive challenge, both technically and architecturally, to create complex new public buildings of this quality. They set a benchmark for tube station design far higher than any other post-war examples.

At Southwark Station, the ticket hall is an integral part of a spatial journey through the station, from the street to the platforms. The architectural quality of the station is as much about this sequence of spaces as it is about the detail.

Cities will always be changing, but there are plenty of examples of new developments which incorporate and preserve the integrity of existing buildings. Otherwise we end up with incoherent buildings and urban development.

Our design was for an 11-storey building over the station, and the existing foundations are designed for this. At 30 storeys, new foundations are clearly required and getting in the piling rig can be the only real reason for demolition of the ticket hall. However, a new ticket hall will need to be built, and there is no reason why the simple circular form and detailing of the original ticket hall could not be rebuilt within the new building, even if it needs to be at grade and if ‘back of house’ areas need to be reconfigured. The spans between columns could be short and not structurally challenging.

Rebuilding the ticket hall to match the existing design wouldn’t be an unreasonable planning condition

This would be sufficient to preserve the sequence of spaces as originally conceived, without imposing unreasonable constraints on the 30-storey building above. For a building which has been recognised for its high architectural quality, rebuilding the ticket hall to match the existing design would not be an unreasonable planning condition, even if not listed.

Mjp southwark underground ticket hall

Mjp southwark underground ticket hall

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Readers' comments (2)

  • So (according to the Government's decision) the bits that are really good are not the bits that are to be redeveloped and the bits that are to be redeveloped (by a public sector body) are not the bits that are really good. Hmm. Have a look for yourself and see if you can make this distinction.

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  • So (also) TfL, and their developer partner, presumably reckon that they can increase their income by near tripling the height of the planned offices over the ticket hall.
    So, in the 18 years since the ticket hall was built the acceptable development planning strategy has apparently changed radically - though whether this site in Southwark is close enough to Waterloo station to qualify as being at a major transport node and thus be seen as a concentration point for high density office development is another matter.
    By remarkable coincidence the ticket hall directly faces TfL's headquarters in Alsop's 11-storey Palestra House across Blackfriars Road, and this building is considerably higher than anything else in the neighbourhood.
    The ticket office site was obviously designed for further additional development, but hey, this is London, so stuff the local community, stuff the notion of sustainable development, stuff an excellent part of the chain of high quality design on the Jubilee Line extension - and overstuff London.
    And, of course, the dosh to TfL will help pay for the losses on their Boris-driven foray into a stupid bridge project.

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