Editor’s comment – March

It may have been a battleground since time immemorial, but recently the territory between architects and ‘heritage’ groups has seen some fierce exchanges. Added to this however have been  unusually heated words directed by architects against their peers.

Never one to shy away from trouble, Patrik Schumacher of ZHA was reported as saying that One World Trade Center in New York was “sterile, bland and a piece that’s nothing,” to gasps from the audience at a real estate summit in the city. And this was in the presence of Roger Duffy, design partner at the firm behind the project, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. It’s important to tackle conflict and not always drive for consensus at all costs, but this is surely fairly unusual even in the sometimes fearless world of star architectural practices.

Architects might not get the chance to pass judgement on Renzo Piano’s Paddington Cube scheme however, after the massive but transparent £775m scheme for Shard developer Seller Property Group has been stopped by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. He has issued an Article 31 notice which buys time for the Department for Communities and Local Government to consider whether the scheme needs to officially be called in for review.

Objectors such as the Save Britain’s Heritage campaign are suggesting that the unusual issuing of such a notice suggests the Government’s concern over the scheme, leading it to take a detailed approach, although it was granted outline consent in December. The pressure group has described the building as “gratuitously overscaled” and a “violation” of Brunel’s nearby Grade 1 listed train station.

However at the slightly less headline-grabbing end of the scale, still-controversial schemes are making their way through the obstacles. AHMM’s proposals to redevelop a collection of shops and industrial buildings on a 5,400 m2 site on Gray’s Inn Road, London necessitate major demolition of existing buildings (save their facades), to create one new seven-storey building. However the council persevered with the scheme despite passionate complaints from Historic England. Sometimes sensitively creating something that appears incongruous can, in contrasting with what is already there, enhance it fundamentally.

Opinions, at least those backed up by experience, are important and worthwhile, and we are keen to give ‘airtime’ to those of architects wherever possible in ADF. The voxpop featuring the wide-ranging concerns around Brexit from several key practices on page 18 is one example, and I encourage you to read it.

James Parker