Greenwich Pier

I’m having a grumpy time with Blogger this morning; it’s refusing to upload any pictures – and I have some great ones for you. So I’m writing a equally grumpy post about something Dazza’s brought to my attention.

Let’s create a context for this. We have a World Heritage Site here, that people get so sensitive about that they moan when someone wants to place Ferris wheel in the grounds of the ORNC for a few months in the summer. A world heritage site based on the area’s history.

Arguably the most important part of a WHS is the way people first see it. And for many – the romantics among our visitors – that’s the view as they arrive by boat.

Now. We’re all agreed that what we currently have is a mess. And a bloomin’ confusing mess at that – trying to work out where to get a boat from must be a minefield for a visitor (well- it certainly was for a Phantom.) A once-grand pier (I would show you a pic if I could upload any) has deteriorated to a building site. But let’s just look at what Greenwich’s powers-that-be have got Conran & Partners to design for us – click here to see it.

Is this the finished product? Is this what we’re getting? Are they proud of that?

Conran boasts:

“Over the past 20 years our buildings have made a significant difference to their surroundings.”

They fail to mention whether this difference is actually a positive one or just a ‘difference’ in the same way that we use ‘interesting’ to describe First Base’s plans for The Heart of East Greenwich. So will it make a ‘significant difference’ to Greenwich? You’re darn tootin’.

It’s apparently based on traditional “palette” of boat-building materials – copper, glass and wood – but to me it looks more like a bunch of the rusty old containers that clutter boat yards today.

Copper? Copper? I’m a big fan of copper – it keeps the slugs off my hostas – but apart from the sheer cost of the stuff these days pushing this project into overspend-freefall, large areas of copper weather really badly. They patinate to a mellow bluey-green, yes, but that’s after long years of streaky browny-green gunk, though at least we could plant some giant hostas around it to cover it up in the meanwhile. Do architects never think about what will happen to their projects in ten year’s time? Presumably not – they just move onto the next cash cow.

And the language:

“The amorphous shape of the buildings is moulded between these view axes.” What the bloody hell does that mean? “Three new pavillions…” What do YOU think of when the word ‘Pavillion’ is bandied about? I’ll wager it’s not this.

Now I’m not suggesting we go for some dreadful faux-Victorian pastiche (even though we have a REAL Victorian waiting room there that is considered ‘too old’ to renovate – so we’re sending it to the West Indies where – wait for it – they’ll be renovating it) but please – can’t we have something that doesn’t look like a giant brown cardboard box? Modern architecture doesn’t have to be awful – there’s some great stuff around. It’s just not in Greenwich (though I confess to being a bit of a fan of Will Alsop’s (thanks Deb) stingray-shaped tube station on the Peninsula.)

Some might argue that I haven’t studied the plans – I don’t seem to be able to find any more to look at. But this is Impact Architecture. It’s to be viewed from a distance, like Sir Christopher Wren’s iconic Hospital. Indeed alongside Wren’s masterpiece. And in my opinion it just doesn’t hold up as a vista – as a building to be enjoyed by The World as part of its Heritage.

Thanks Dazza, for sending me the link – but you just depressed the hell out of me.


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