Lewisham learns from Croydon as regeneration calamity opens 2018 Carbuncle Cup

When did regeneration become a dirty word? When it became an excuse to exchange economic depression for architectural despair. Alas, examples abound across our fair capital from Vauxhall to former Carbuncle Cup winner Woolwich Central. But one of the latest additions to this risible roll call is in Lewisham.

Lewisham Gateway is a £375m urban regeneration scheme that aims to comprehensively redevelop the town centre of London’s thirteenth largest borough. The project is so ambitious that not only has it necessitated the complete redesign of one of south London’s most notoriously inhospitable traffic gyratories, it has also re-routed not one but two ancient London rivers.

So far so good. But, as ever, it is not the principle of regeneration that is in doubt but the product. And, so far at least, the product here is terrible. Phase 1 has been completed and sees two finished residential towers as well as two that are still under construction.

Together they embody all the lazy belligerence that sadly characterises the vast majority of tall residential blocks in the capital and they appear as curiously dislodged outposts from south London’s other mecca of high-rise regeneration mediocrity, Croydon. Bland, boxy and with some vaguely indeterminate delinquent menace, the towers currently stand like a sneering street gang of four upturned middle fingers dumbly primed to hurl all manner of townscape obscenities at their unsuspecting environs.

The reconfigured roundabout fares little better, Lewisham council and TfL appear to have achieved the enviable feat of increasing the land mass at the centre of the gyratory and ensuring that a phalanx of traffic lanes still severs it from surrounding streets and landmarks. Where is the radical public realm innovation TfL has displayed at other similar major traffic junctions such as Elephant and Castle, Stockwell and Archway?

In fairness, the answer may well be that it is yet to come. A new park is planned at the base of the four towers and the full Gateway project is not set to fully complete until 2021. But on the basis of what has already been finished in the towers and gyratory and how grimly this bodes for both Lewisham and the future, Lewisham Gateway stands as a worthy early contender for this year’s Carbuncle Cup.