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ZHA’s controversial Vauxhall skyscrapers: inquiry underway

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A public inquiry is underway this week to decide whether Zaha Hadid Architects’ (ZHA) proposed giant pair of towers in Vauxhall, south London, goes ahead

The £600 million Vauxhall Cross Island project was called in by then housing secretary James Brokenshire in May after the plans were granted approval by Lambeth Council.

The project, comprising two towers of 53 and 42 storeys and a connecting podium, would be ZHA’s first major mixed-use residential and commercial development and has been described as a ‘breakthrough project’ for the practice.

But the scheme has faced criticism for its scale, including from local groups and from the neighbouring Borough of Wandsworth, which criticised its ’excessive height’.

In a letter to the local authority, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government demanded greater clarity over the number of new homes and the design quality of the mixed-use scheme.

Brokenshire also asked Lambeth Council to demonstrate how the proposal conforms to NPPF rules ensuring the vitality of town centres; building a strong, competitive economy; and conserving and enhancing the historic environment.

It comprises 257 new homes in the shorter tower, a 618-room hotel in the taller tower and an 11-storey podium comprising 20,000m² of office space, plus shops at ground level.

Designed for developer VCI Property Holding, the offer includes 23 London Living Rent flats on-site and a contribution of £30 million towards affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.

The ZHA scheme relies on land currently occupied by Arup Associates’ landmark bus station at Vauxhall. In December 2017, planners approved a smaller replacement bus station for the site by 5th Studio, which was opposed by local campaigners. 

However 5th Studio director Tom Holbrook said the project, currently at detailed design phase, said the transport hub was part of an ‘amazing’ transformation of the area that seeks to restore the lost Vauxhall Cross.

’The scheme supports the removal of the car-dominated 1970s traffic gyratory and unites land to address the severe severances caused by the highway and rail viaduct’, he said.

Recommending the ZHA scheme for approval, Lambeth planners praised the ’slender rectangular towers’ which they said were more in keeping with the style of other nearby towers than the ‘round, stocky, sloped towers’ of an earlier Squire & Partners scheme.

Great Marlborough Estates, the development manager for the Vauxhall Cross Island scheme, said it could not comment while the inquiry was underway.

ZHA was approached for comment. 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • When you publish this today, alongside your other feature "Architecture for the people, by the people" it is as a grotesque caricature of A Christmas Carol updated for post-election England at the end of 2019. A Merry Christmas to one and all.

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  • Fence--post architecture, with shiny trim.

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