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Richard Rogers renews Crossrail criticism

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Richard Rogers has renewed his criticism of the £15 billion Crossrail project following the news that an architect designing more than a dozen Crossrail stations is to be replaced with another firm

Earlier this month, AJ revealed that Pascall+Watson is to take over from Bennetts Associates on 14 stations in west London. The firm will work for Taylor Woodrow under a design a build contract on delivery of the stations, with Bennetts retained in a ‘design review role’.

Rogers, who has previously warned that Crossrail would fail to live up to the country’s ‘great railway heritage’, said he was concerned by the project’s lack of architectural continuity and the onus on suburban local authorities to improve the quality of stations.

He said: ‘London has a great heritage of beautiful railway and tube stations. It is critical that Crossrail and its architects and advisers continue with this great tradition, so that they create buildings that enhance their locations, rather than blighting them. I am concerned that the current process won’t achieve this.

‘Architects […] are slowly losing control of buildings because they are used as consultants or sketch artists, rather than as building architects.’

Crossrail has not used CABE to scrutinise suburban stations and Rogers said their design quality relied on the intervention of local councils, which he said ‘varied immensely according to how much money they have’.

A Crossrail spokesman said: ‘We are going through a comprehensive process to ensure our stations come up to the very highest design standards […] Where significant improvements are being made to surface stations, we are working closely with local communities and have established steering groups to review the designs. Working with local authorities and their architects remains our main priority, but we have not ruled out further external review.’

Rab Bennetts said of Pascal+Watson: ‘They’re a good practice that specialises in transport infrastructure and, while we would have liked to have been on the construction team ourselves, we’re sure they’ll do a good job.’

Previous story (AJ 11.07.14)

Pascall+Watson takes over Crossrail stations under design and build contract

Pascall+Watson is to take over from Bennetts Associates on stations in the western section of the £15 billion Crossrail scheme under a design and build contract, it has been announced

In a statement, Pascall+Watson said it would now deliver detailed design at 14 stations, including Ealing Broadway, which Bennetts recently reworked after complaints were made last year regarding its initial scheme for the busy interchange.

However, the statement added that Bennetts ‘will be retained by Network Rail and Crossrail in a design review role to ensure compliance with design intent and maintain dialogue with the local authorities’.

A row over the design quality of the scheme’s stations has been simmering since last December, when it emerged that design review would not be used as standard on the 27 surface stations and Richard Rogers warned that Crossrail – which opens in 2019 – would not live up to the country’s ‘great railway heritage’.

RIBA president Stephen Hodder, who has also demanded higher design standards on Crossrail, called on project bosses to spell out Bennetts’ exact role.

He said: ‘I would always want to see continuity so that integrity of [design] intent is maintained. But I don’t believe design and build automatically means you end up with an inferior design.

‘The positive thing is that Bennetts is being retained in a consultancy role. They must be positively engaged. Their role must be defined and have teeth.’

Bennetts co-founder Rab Bennetts said his practice had been liaising with Pascall+Watson ‘to ensure they know what’s been happening on the planning front’. He added: ‘They’re a good practice that specialises in transport infrastructure and, while we would have liked to have been on the construction team ourselves, we’re sure they’ll do a good job. 

‘The fact that we are being retained in a monitoring capacity is also good for the project.’

Pascall+Watson is working as part of a team led by contractor Taylor Woodrow. The 14 stations are being overhauled to accommodate the operation of the new, 205m-long Crossrail trains, requiring increased station facilities, longer platforms and revised canopies, footbridges, lift and stair arrangements.

New station buildings will be constructed at Acton Main Line, West Ealing, Southall and Hayes & Harlington, while ‘significant modifications’ will be provided at Ealing Broadway and West Drayton.

Previous story (AJ 02.06.14)

Bennetts reveals ‘hugely improved’ designs for Ealing Broadway station

A new ‘landmark’ station for Ealing Broadway in west London has been revealed by Bennetts Associates and its client Crossrail

Bennetts is working for Crossrail on designs for 13 ‘surface stations’ in west London including Ealing Broadway and was given a new brief for the busy station after complaints last year that its initial scheme was too limited amid a wider row over Crossrail’s commitment to design quality outside of central London.

Since then, Bennetts has been working closely with parties including Ealing Council and its architect HOK to revise the scheme and last month presented its ‘hugely improved’ plans to MPs and local figures including planner Peter Hall (AJ 01.05.2014).

The station now includes a ticket hall twice the size of the existing one, four lifts and a long timber and steel canopy running the length of the forecourt which ‘reflects the prominence and importance of the station building’, according to Crossrail.

Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council said: ‘Crossrail decided to completely re-think its plans and responded constructively to the design observations we put forward. We are confident that the revised station plans will create a building which works better for people and is of a scale and appearance that benefits Ealing as west London’s premier town centre. ‘

“The council is also currently finalising further plans which will transform the entire area around the station, as well as improve safety and transport links, and upgrade the look and feel of the area. These plans will be announced shortly.’

Last month renowned planner and local resident Peter Hall, who was critical of Bennetts’ initial designs, said the revised plans marked a ‘huge improvement in several different ways’ and that the practice had ‘almost cracked the problem’ (see below).

Previous story (AJ 01.05.14)

Bennetts puts forward ‘hugely improved’ designs for Ealing Broadway station

Bennetts Associates has drawn up ‘hugely improved’ designs for one of London’s key suburban Crossrail stations.

Bennetts director Julian Lipscombe presented the firm’s latest designs for Ealing Broadway station to local figures at a meeting at Portcullis House hosted by the Tory MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Angie Bray, last Thursday.

Bennetts is working for Crossrail on designs for 13 surface stations, including Ealing Broadway. The latest development comes amid an ongoing row over the £15 billion project’s commitment to design quality outside of central London.

Last Thursday’s meeting, which was attended by London’s deputy mayor for transport, Isabel Dedring, follows renewed lobbying of the mayor’s office by figures including Richard Rogers, who last December warned Crossrail was set to produce poorly designed stations that would fail to live up to Britain’s ‘great railway heritage’.

Bennetts’ new design features an enlarged frontage with wider roof, supported by columns cantilevered towards the street.

Renowned planner and local resident Peter Hall, who attended the meeting, said: ‘I thought the new design was a huge improvement in several different ways and has almost cracked the problem.’ Hall added that he and other residents now wished to see Ealing Council and Crossrail push through further changes, including better integration with the public realm.

The meeting follows a letter to Dedring from Hall and Rogers calling for a transformation of the station, which they described as west London’s ‘major transport hub’.The letter called the current station a ‘brutal, soulless and shameful gateway’ and pointed out that Crossrail’s initial plans envisaged passenger numbers increasing by up to 70 per cent ‘without a significant increase in facilities’.

Rogers did not attend the latest meeting but told the AJ he was now more optimistic about Crossrail design. He said: ‘People are beginning to talk about design and heritage. Ealing is not a “back door” but a very important place, and this needs to be a very good piece of design. I think Rab Bennetts and Bennetts Associates can do it.’

A spokesman for Bennetts said: ‘We and our client Crossrail have been working closely with Ealing Council and its architectural advisers to make significant changes to the initial station design submitted last year.  Initial feedback has been positive, but further refinement and consultation is ongoing.’

Last week a new report on Crossrail regeneration by the Future of London think-tank called for an insistence on ‘high-quality station and public realm design’ and for a formal design review to be considered on all station proposals.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The references to Ealing Broadway station should also include the blindingly obvious need for escalators there, and the lack of their inclusion in the 'upgrade' speaks volumes for what seems to be wrong with the Crossrail approach to station design - which, in the case of Ealing Broadway, could be fairly described as 'all fur coat and no knickers'.

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