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Pilbrow’s music studio expansion blocked over impact on Antony Gormley workshop

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Pilbrow & Partners and Mountford Pigott’s designs for the expansion of a music hub in King’s Cross have been blocked over fears the scheme would dominate sculptor Antony Gormley’s workshop

The London-based practices have drawn up proposals for the redevelopment of a 0.46ha site off York Way for self-storage company Big Yellow and developer CPP, which owns Tileyard Studios next door.

Tileyard Studios, which describes itself as ‘Europe’s largest hub for independent musicians and creative businesses’, is currently home to 85 studios and 200 firms, but wants to expand.

The proposal, originally submitted to Islington Council, includes two new buildings: an eight-storey home for Big Yellow designed by Mountford Pigott and Pilbrow’s seven-storey building for Tileyard.

After Islington failed to determine the application in time, the developer appealed to the planning inspector to make a decision on the project.

But after a public inquiry, the planning inspector has dismissed the appeal, ruling that the design was overbearing and would harm the character of the area.

The ’‘brooding boxy mass’ of the Big Yellow building would ‘loom more than six storeys above’ over Antony Gormley’s David Chipperfield-designed workshop, the inspector found.

The prominent UK sculptor gave evidence at the inquiry over the impact of the scheme on his three-storey studio. 

In her decision, the inspector JA Vyse said: ‘I consider that the core in particular would be bulky and overbearing, with a confrontational rather than respectful relationship with the generally modest adjacent buildings within this part of the LSIS [locally significant industrial site].’

As for Pilbrow’s Tileyard building, Vyse said the scheme would ‘appear excessively large’ with ‘no sense of any coherent architectural dialogue’ with its neighbours.

She added it would not succeed as a ‘contemporary reinterpretation’ of the warehouse buildings found in the area.

The inspector also agreed with Islington’s concerns that the proposals would have a ‘significant material impact’ on the daylight of residents in PRP’s recently redeveloped Maiden Lane Estate, over the border in Camden.

However, while critical of the design, the planning inspector did not share Islington’s concern over the land use.

The site is within the Vale Royal/Brewery Road LSIS, described by the council as ‘the last remaining protected industrial area in inner London’. 

Islington feared that of the 9,000m² of flexible workspace and around 1,600m² of light industrial floorspace proposed by the scheme, the flexible space would be taken up by offices, which would change the area’s industrial character.

On this point, however, the planning inspector did not agree. Vyse found that the proposed flexible space was intended specifically to accommodate the growth of the Tileyard Studios cluster and would not jeopardise the future of the LSIS.

Paul Kempe, co-founder of Tileyard Studios, said the planning inspector’s decision was ‘surprising and extraordinary’ and that the design had evolved with feedback from Islington’s design review panel.

He said: ‘Islington’s objection was always about use; they have an irrational fear it would open the floodgate in the LSIS for what they perceived as more office use. Islington never mentioned anything about daylight or design. 

If we were in an area of historic interest I would understand, but there is nothing there of architectural merit

‘It is extraordinary that a well-designed scheme with flexible business space can be turned down as to the effect of architecture in an LSIS. If we were in the middle of an area of historic interest I would understand, but there is nothing there of architectural merit.

Asked about Gormley’s studio, Kempe said it was a ‘red herring’, adding: ‘The proposal has absolutely no effect. It [the buillding] is one two or three buildings away from the western edge of the Gormley building; it’s nonsense that it would have any effect when you have a huge great residential tower that has been built by Camden.’

Kempe said the decision was a huge loss for the local area. ‘We took a set of buildings that architecturally have little merit and have turned them into a thriving creative community of 1,500 people. We’re desperate to expand. This is a curious decision all round.’

Fred Pilbrow of Pilbrow & Partners said: ’We’re disappointed by the decision to refuse planning for the Tileyard scheme. The designs, which received positive feedback from both the GLA and the Islington Design Review panel during planning consultation, expand this important hub for music production in Kings Cross, creating jobs and cultural opportunities for London and the local area.

’Following the decision, we are discussing with our client what the next steps will be.’

Islington Council, Pilbrow & Partners and Mountford Pigott were approached for comment.

Big yellow 3

Big yellow 3


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