Friday01 August 2014

Biggest-ever building in City enrages Barbican residents

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KPF’s plans for the largest single building in the City of London have sparked fury among residents of the nearby Barbican.

Unveiling the 90,000sq m office development at a public meeting last week, KPF project architect Karl Sharro was heckled by residents protesting that the project would dwarf the Chamberlin Powell & Bon-designed estate and destroy many of its high walkways.

Barbican Association chairman David Graves said after the meeting that the scheme — set to be the European HQ of financial services giant JP Morgan —“does violence” to the original concept of the Barbican, which promoted the public realm and easy access to the City.

“Apart from overshadowing, light pollution and privacy issues, we’re being walled in and cut off,” he added.

Residents have since been backed by a host of architects, including former RIBA presidents Frank Duffy and George Ferguson, in the latest in a series of challenges to large-scale KPF schemes in central London.

Duffy, who is also a resident, claimed the design “impedes permeability”, while Ferguson said the location was wrong. “Canary Wharf is there to take these bloody great buildings out of the City of London, much as La Défense does for Paris,” he said. “But now the City is bribing big institutions to stay — with damaging results.”

But Sharro insisted the scheme achieved the “perfect balance” between public and private concerns. “It’s part of a larger urban context and you have to agree that is one of the most economically active areas in the world,” he said.

“In a democracy I would expect there to be a balance between economic interests of the City and the needs of residents.”

The row is the third recent KPF project to spark controversy following the public inquiry over its office scheme at Smithfield Market and the downsizing of its proposals for the £2 billion Victoria Transport Interchange.

The JP Morgan scheme, for developer Hammerson, is formed of two merged 11- and 22-storey blocks and would house 10,000 staff. It is proposed for the southern edge of the Barbican on a site occupied by 1960s St Alphage House, and is expected to be submitted for planning next month.

The proposal follows a row over the demolition and replacement of Milton Court in the Barbican with a 38-storey residential tower by David Walker Architects, now under way.

Battle at the Barbican

Residents of the Barbican complex (above) claim plans for an office scheme nearby by KPF Architects (below) will damage the accessibility of the estate and overshadow it.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Am I being slow or is the proposed development shown in the photograph the particularly nasty 1970's style blocks shown in the background the shapeless white blobs in the foreground ? Either way does it matter? - what a terrible vision of the future....if the City of London wishes to continue being the UK's economic motor then it should start improving the architecture it grants in order that companies will want to set up a base there....

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  • There seems to be almost unanimous opposition to the scheme by Barbican residents - even by those not directly affected in terms of being overshadowed by this proposed monstrosity. The scale of the scheme is out of all proportion - and to build it right next to a major residential complex which houses 4-5,000 residents - and on the south side thus taking direct sunlight away from a number of the Barbican apartments which are all low-rise on that side of the estate - must be against environmental and architectural guidelines. JP Morgan Chase Bear, as I believe it is now named has also said that they would want yet another of the Barbican's podium level walkways closed (the Milton Court development has already seen one of these removed) - for security reasons. However academic studies have shown that the closing of such walkways in an estate complex like the Barbican substantially increases security problems for residents. Hopefully the City of London's planning committee will throw out the scheme, although there is obviously strong support from some members of the Corporation who are worried about the movement of some major firms from the City to Canary Wharf.

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  • This site is is too constrained for such high density buildings.The modelling of the surrounding buildings will be completely compromised. The Barbican, a listed building, will not successfully relate to it's new neighbour which will only be a road width away.The space around a building has as much importance as the building itself when producing good architecture.Surely a better site in the city can be found.

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