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Partington's Cucumber gets green light

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Robin Partington Architects has landed outline planning for its Merchant Square scheme in Paddington featuring a cylindrical 42-storey skyscraper, dubbed the Cucumber Tower

Westminster Council approved the scheme in west London, which is backed by billionaire brothers Simon and David Reuben, despite the project coming in for heavy criticism from CABE (see below).

The centrepiece tower will house 222 flats, a boutique hotel with a terrace cafe and a roof top sky bar and will be clad in ‘midnight blue’ ceramic panels.

Initial agreement was also given to three other buildings around the canalside site including a 17-storey office building, including shopping space,a 21-storey mixed-use residential, retail and community building and a 15-storey block containing 119 homes and medical facilities. 

Planning committee chairman Alastair Moss said: ‘We have given our approval to certain key aspects of these detailed plans including the height and design of the buildings and the public realm between them.

‘The architectural designs are impressive. They could deliver an iconic addition to London’s skyline and serve as a focal point for Paddington and the surrounding area. We now wait for further details of the environmental impact and the other planning benefits to be provided as part of the development before a final planning judgement is made.’

Partington hit back at CABE’s criticism of the development, saying the project had been almost universally well-received by all the other stakeholders.

Previous story (AJ 09.02.11)

No change for Cucumber despite CABE salvo

Robin Partington has said his practice does not intend to redesign its Merchant Square scheme in Paddington despite it coming in for stinging criticism from CABE

Partington said the project, which features a 42-storey centrepiece tower already dubbed the Cucumber, had been universally well-received and that CABE’s comments had come ‘like an Exocet from the side’.

The commission’s design review did not hold back in its criticism of the mixed-use, canalside development in west London, claiming the scheme was ‘confusing in townscape terms’ and that the skyscraper’s design had ‘fundamental shortcomings’ (see full report attached right) .

The panel went on to say: ‘The pronounced curvature of the buildings proposed sets up a challenge for the scheme to provide both well-connected and well-defined spaces that are usable by residents and the wider public. In our view, this has not been achieved in the submitted scheme.’

CABE concluded that it could not support the planning application.

However Partingon, the driving force behind the Gherkin while at Foster + Partners and founder of Robin Partington Architects, has hit back saying they have received positive feedback from an array of stakeholders.

He said: ‘We have spent a huge amount of time on this – two years – and everybody we have talked to has been supportive of the scheme. We have done lots of consultation and worked very closely with the GLA, councillors and local groups.

‘It’s a real shame when you are given just 20 minutes to talk to the design review panel about a significant masterplan and four buildings – the same time given to a small project in Ealing.

He added: ‘CABE should be duty bound to give [a scheme like this] due consideration. I don’t want to be critical because the commission is only working with what it has got, but I don’t think the process is fair.’

Greater London Authority Report Stage 1 Report - extracts

39 The principal of a tall building on this site was established by the previous permission. Nonetheless we support the principal of a tall building on this site. Its orientation and strong vertical elements will provide a gatepost feature for those entering Central London via the A40, and its scale is appropriate to the landscape at this location. Its circular form is supported over the previous proposal, as the building appears to be less bulky as a result of its redesign. However, it would have a significant height and would clearly have a large impact on many non-strategic views around London. Examples include views from vantage points within the Royal Parks, surrounding conservation areas and major approach roads such as Edgware Road, Marylebone Road and the A40 Westway. Unlike the similarly formed ‘Gherkin’ in the City of London, Building 1 would appear in several views as a free standing structure. Nonetheless, the building would have an attractive form and a high quality finish, and the impact of the building would be positive.

Urban design

42  The design of the four buildings is appropriate, with each linked through a common design approach. The buildings appear recognisably distinct through their shape and height. The use of porcelain ‘ribs’ on building 1 is particularly interesting. Design detail has been refined since the pre-application stage and officers are satisfied that the buildings would now appear representative of their function, thereby assisting site legibility.

43 The Public Realm strategy, including the provision of public art, is supported. This includes the water space strategy an overall site masterplan indicating how the development would fit together and be implemented. The replacement bridge and works to the canal/basin are recognised as contributing to the improvement of the area. Compared to the previous scheme, the focus of activity within the public realm on the site would shift to the canalside.

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