One of the most disgusting characteristics of present day London is its role as a playground for the super-rich, Middle East and Russian mafia types.
It’s Middle Eastern money that would have built Chelsea Barracks and has paid for One Hyde Park, which opened this week in a fanfare. The Times, despite spelling Rogers with a “d” on its front page, thought that One Hyde Park’s opening was of such significance that it decided to splash with it on Thursday.
The angle for most papers is the building’s cost and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor. “Super rich pay world-record prices as the young struggle to find jobs,” ran the Times standfirst above a picture of the developer Nick Candy and his paramour Holly Valance.
That doesn’t interest me. Neither do the bomb blast-protected windows, fortress-type security, state-of-the-art gym complete with private exercise and treatment rooms and 21m “ozone” swimming pool, saunas, steam rooms, squash court, golf simulator, “virtual” games room, wine cellars, business suite and meeting rooms, entertainment rooms, underground car park, car cleaning and valet parking… all of which is what you’d expect to find in a five-star hotel but with slightly nicer interiors. The oodles of marble and porcelain and silk and leather wall coverings at One Hyde Park just remind me how naff rich taste is.
But the story as I see it is how could such a horror happen – especially at such a key location? This is Westminster not Dubai. Along with Piano’s monster at the end of the Tottenham Court Road and Nouvel’s shopping centre opposite St Paul’s, it begs the question: what is the use of Britain’s obstructive planning system if celebrity architects are allowed to get away with such expensive rubbish?
This week, Richard Rogers described One Hyde Park as a “21st century monument”, but what it is, is a monument to the clapped-out English planning system.