Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Twin Piques in SW10; Arts

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Twin Piques in SW10; Arts

Article excerpt


HERE come two more skyscrapers, shimmering digital seduction in happy, shiny computer pics. These steepling blocks of flats, on a riverside site by Lots Road power station in Fulham, are designed by Terry Farrell and Partners.

At 426 ft, the taller one is about as high as the three concrete towers of the Barbican, or the London Eye.

With them will come bafflement among those entrusted with the conservation of London - a familiar part of the ritual surrounding tall-building proposals. With something as emphatic as a skyscraper, you might expect an equally emphatic verdict - yes or no, inspiring or ugly - to be reached by the many planning bodies concerned. Yet no one has devised a better means of judging than the protracted aesthetic and economic haggle, in which architects, developers, planners and public slop about in mushy concepts like "design quality", "local character" and "economic necessity", until some sort of compromise is reached. Today sees the launch of Guidance on Tall Buildings, a document intended to bring some sense to the matter. It is published by English Heritage, which is responsible for protecting good old buildings, and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, whose task is to encourage good new ones. The document is sensible, pointing out that "in the right place, tall buildings can make a positive contribution to city life" and that "many tall buildings will have an effect on the wider historic environment". It argues that skyscrapers should be well designed, that they are better on some sites than on others. But it is possible to take their arguments, and use them to reach diametrically opposite conclusions about the Lots Road towers.

So, you can argue that Lots Road is a good site for towers, because there are already the brick tree-stumps of the Worlds End housing estate nearby, and the Widow Twankey copper-roofed pinnacle of Chelsea Harbour and, across the river, Richard Rogers's Montevetro. Or you could argue that the Thames is London's greatest resource, that it has received quite enough indignities already, that Montevetro was pushing its luck at 20 storeys, and that the proposed 39 storeys is therefore downright outrageous.

You could equally say that Terry Farrell is a well-respected architect, whose MI6 building by Vauxhall Bridge will undoubtedly be one day listed as a canonical work of 1980s postmodernism and who, moving with the times, has now developed a more refined style. You could say that the Lots Road towers present elegantly slender profiles to the views from the downriver bridges, Albert, Battersea and Vauxhall. It could be added that the towers are part of a larger [pound]350 million development, which will turn a brownfield site rank with arsenic and asbestos into a public water garden. …

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