Take a look at BD readers’ top ten stories over the past year

It has been another dramatic year for architecture. There have been scandals, downfalls and rows. There have been some major call-ins and public inquiries. And though the economy went into freefall, there has been no shortage of huge, high profile, and sometimes spectacular projects. 

Here we have compiled a list of the top ten most read stories over the last 12 months, based on views according to Google Analytics.

1. Heatherwick unveils “Tree of Trees” sculpture for Queen’s Jubilee weekend

Heatherwick tree 1

Heatherwick’s “Tree of Trees” sculpture


Published in April

Heatherwick has designed a 21m tall tree sculpture that will be erected outside Buckingham Palace in June for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

The ‘Tree of Trees’ will house 350 native British trees within a spiralling steel and timber frame, with each tree planted in an aluminium pot embossed with the Queen’s cypher.

The sculpture has been supported by financial media giant Bloomberg and has been designed to promote the Queen’s Green Canopy, a project aiming to inspire a wave of tree planting across the UK.

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2. Herzog & de Meuron’s Liverpool Street tower heading for planning submission next spring

Liverpool Street upgraded concourse ©Herzog & de Meuron (resize 2)

Herzog & de Meuron’s plans to redevelop Liverpool Street station

Published in October

A huge scheme to redevelop Liverpool Street station which includes proposals by Herzog & de Meuron for a 20-storey block above part of the concourse are expected to go in to City planners next spring, Building understands.

Shard developer Sellar is speaking to Network Rail about the job which will involve creating over one million sq ft of mixed-use space at the site as well as revamping the third busiest station in the country with new entrances at its southern end. It will also include building a new two-level concourse which is designed to reduce overcrowding at the station.

Mace, which was behind Sellar’s Shard scheme and its current Paddington Square development, both designed by Renzo Piano, is providing pre-construction advice – although the job will go out to tender.

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3. Academics accuse UCL of setting off Bartlett “witch hunt”

The Bartlett by Hawkins Brown

Source: Jack Hobhouse

The Bartlett

Published in June

A group of high-profile architects and academics has accused University College London (UCL) of setting off a “witch hunt” of staff at the Bartlett school of architecture by current and former students.

The group, which includes Amin Taha, said that UCL’s decision to publish a bombshell report into alleged abuses at the school before the conclusion of a disciplinary process had led to staff being subjected to a “wave of denunciations”. 

In an open letter, published in full below, the group expressed its solidarity with “the majority of decent and talented teachers” which it said had been named on social media blacklists inspired by the report.

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4. F3 Architects’ Tottenham Hotspur towers approved at appeal

Goods Yard 1

Source: F3 Architects

F3 Architects and Tottenham Hotspur’s proposals for the Goods Yard and the Depot in north London, seen from White Hart Lane

Published in November

Tottenham Hotspur FC and F3 Architects have had their proposals for an 867-home development on land near the football club’s north London stadium approved at appeal after Haringey Council rejected the scheme last year.

F3’s scheme would deliver the homes in towers of 32, 29 and 27 storeys – as well as lower-rise buildings – on land off White Hart Lane, to the west of Spurs’ £1bn Populous-designed stadium. The site brings together two plots known as the Goods Yard and the Depot, which already had existing planning consents for up to 650 homes. Both plots are owned by Spurs.

Haringey Council planning officers had recommended the Spurs proposal for approval. But councillors rejected it, citing concerns about the height, breadth and spacing of the scheme’s three towers, which they said would have an “unacceptable adverse effect” on views of the area.

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5. KSS’ £100m Crystal Palace stadium expansion heading back to planning committee

Selhurst Park 1

KSS’ plans for the expansion of Selhurst Park

Published in October

Crystal Palace FC’s £100m plans to expand its Selhurst Park stadium are heading back into the planning process more than four years after the scheme was first approved.

Revised KSS-designed proposals to boost capacity at the ground from 26,000 to 34,000 have been recommended for approval at Croydon council’s planning committee on Thursday evening.

It will be the latest chapter in the troubled planning history of the club’s plans to expand its 1924 base with a new five-storey stand.

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6. Chinese property crisis hits KPF’s £1bn Nine Elms project


KPF’s One Nine Elms under construction

Published in February

KPF’s £1bn One Nine Elms project appears to have fallen foul of the crisis sweeping China’s property market.

Delays to the twin towers project are inevitable as Multiplex is understood to be significantly reducing its 1,000-strong workforce on the job on the south bank of the Thames while it chases a late payment from client R&F Properties. It is not known how much money is involved.

Guangzhou-based R&F is one of China’s biggest developers but in January global credit ratings agency S&P declared its Hong Kong offshoot “in selective default” after it got approval from lenders to delay a $725m senior unsecured note payment.

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7. Zaha Hadid Architects’ £12m bill to use founder’s name

Zaha Hadid

Source: Brigitte Lacombe

Zaha Hadid

Published in January

Zaha Hadid Architects paid £3.4m to use its founder’s name last year, new accounts reveal.

It brings the total bill for using the trademark over the last five years to £11.9m.

The latest fee is believed to be the biggest yet, up from around £2.8m in the previous two years, £780,000 in 2018 and £2.3m in 2017.

The practice, which pays the licensing fee to the Zaha Hadid Foundation, said the amount charged was linked to turnover and so “reflects our significant growth in recent years”. ZHA’s latest accounts show pre-tax profit almost tripled to £9m while turnover hit £60.9m in the year to April 2021.

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8. Marble Arch Mound architect: “We should have walked from the project”

MVRDV's Marble Arch Mound pictured in October 2021

MVRDV’s Marble Arch Mound pictured in October 2021

Published in February

The practice responsible for Westminster council’s disastrous Marble Arch Mound attraction has said it should have walked away from the project when the authority lost interest and it was excluded from construction-phase talks.

Rotterdam-based architect MVRDV said the project, which went through numerous design changes and became a laughing stock when it opened before it was finished last summer, should have been a celebration of London but became a “loveless installation”.

Conservative-run Westminster’s deputy leader Mervyn Caplan resigned from his position over the mound debacle in August last year. Last month, it emerged that the official who oversaw much of the project – former Mecanoo director Elad Eisenstein – was on a salary of £220,000. The figure is almost £3,000 a year more than the authority’s chief executive.

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9. Kingspan ordered to halt sales of Kooltherm K15 insulation

K15 Kooltherm

Kingspan’s K15 Kooltherm insulation

Published in January

Kingspan has been ordered to halt sales of certain batches of its Kooltherm K15 product after they were initially found to meet a lower fire safety performance rating than advertised.

The insulation manufacturer was issued with prohibition notices by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) on 23 December to stop the supply of K15 products and recall them, after the company itself alerted regulators to the problem on 25 October. The order applies to Kooltherm K15 products manufactured between 1 August and 18 October last year with an estimated sales value of £150,000.

In a statement, Kingspan said the batches of K-15 were initially found to achieve Euroclass D fire safety performance level rather than the more stringent Euroclass C as advertised, when tested by Kingspan and OPSS on small scale.

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10. AHMM to convert Debenham’s former flagship Oxford Street store

AHMM_334 Oxford Street_copyright Secchi Smith

Published in May

AHMM has launched a consultation on proposals to refurbish Debenhams’ former flagship store on Oxford Street and transform it into a new retail and office scheme.

Developer 334 Ramsbury Oxford Limited is planning to retain the existing building on 334 Oxford Street, adding new facades and three upper storeys with terraces.

The refurbished building, which takes up a whole block close to Bond Street tube station, will include three storeys of retail facing Oxford Street, a mix of uses on the building’s three other sides and flexible office space on its upper levels.

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