Stockwell Street Development

Several people have contacted me, saying they’d like somewhere to discuss the plans for the Stockwell Street development, since they feel that the feedback form at the consultation itself  is not-very-subtely weighted towards making it look like everyone supports the plans.

For my own two penn’orth, this feels a very timid design. It’s as though the architects have been told that they will get massively negative feedback if they create anything too outlandish, and yet also feel that they cannot create a mere pastiche of neo-classical buildings on a school of architecture.

And I do feel for the university guys. I think that, unlike Greenwich Hospital Trust, they do actually give a damn about what local people think, and they are actually interested in promoting Greenwich as a brilliant place. I even think they will listen to feedback, if you can make sure it’s all in the notes, rather than the ‘do you support this or that’ bits.

But the result here, IMHO, is a very dull building indeed. Lots of grey stone and glass, but no real innovation. Admittedly it’s better than John Humphries House – but this is a school of architecture – and, although it’s within a heritage site (which I know they’re aware of) that doesn’t mean that it has to be bland and blockish.

They talked about covering over the railway cutting while I was there, which would be great – perhaps creating a new village market or a green space – but the big problem with this idea is that they don’t own the land – so with the best will in the world, it’s not within their gift.

They also talked of narrowing the road, so they could build into the pavement area – apparently they would be within their rights to do this – they do own that land, but I worry that it would make the pavement seem very mean (their argument for narrowing the road is to prevent rat-running with the new pedestrianisation proposals, also that they would be following the line of the ancient street.)

I don’t know. I don’t utterly, utterly hate this. But neither does it excite me. I would have liked to see something innovative – something worthy of a nickname. “The Boring Building” doesn’t really cut it…

Find out about the consultation here


15 Comments to “Stockwell Street Development”

  1. Paul says:

    I was hugely disappointed. I thought we’d get something more exciting. It’s also very, very dense.

    The frontages, although it’s hard to tell from the renditions, look almost brutalist, not so different from John Humphries House as you’d expect.

    This afternoon, the chap in attendance told me the general reaction to the building was that it was “horrible.”

    They came up with an intriguing, bold building for County Kildare. In comparison, their Greenwich building looks like a bit of a lump. Maybe you’re right, they’ve been timid because of the area, but I can’t help thinking they’d have more chance of success with something truly striking. (With a public space for a market or similar in the middle, of course).

  2. Warren says:

    Am I right in thinking that the exhibition is on the rest of this week until Friday?

  3. I believe so. Do get down and take a peek…

  4. The Sheila says:

    I agree with you Phantom that the building is drab and disappointing – it feels like a wasted opportunity to create something unique. I really did expect something more than this from them, particularly for their School of Architecture and given the architects they are using. I have been in the building in County Kildare that is continually referred to – it is very unique and does challenges one’s perceptions of height and space, particularly in respect of gradients. It is also quite colourful in its own way. Yet, all of these things are missing in the Stockwell St development.

    The questionnaire they handed out at the end made me very annoyed – it is impossible to answer in anything but glowing terms (e.g. “do you support…. to build using high standards of sustainability” – yes and I also support the sky being blue!). It feels very biased and I think the universiry have let themselves down with this. I guess you are right and we can only try to fill in our comments in the free text at the end.

    Our property backs on to this site, so we’re directly effected. Now whilst I have certain specific issues with their plans in this respect, the University have made an enormous effort to keep in contact with us (emails, letters, meetings) and listen to our views. They have been very quick to respond to any questions raised and I know when another neighbour had an issue with work that has been going on recently, someone from the university personally called around to them within a few hours. They really do deserve credit for this.

    So all in all, I think the university are trying really hard to do the right thing here, but I think the architects have let them down.

  5. Dazza says:

    Damned if they do and damned if they don’t…..I suppose they took what they thought of as the path of least resistance in this design. Too outlandish and the World heritage site bunch would be screaming for blood, to bland and they run the risk of blandness.
    A happy medium had to be found, but is this it?

  6. TPlautus says:

    They’re on a hiding to nothing really. I commented today that it doesn’t quicken the pulse. It feels as though they’re trying to offend nobody. But if they went for something less bland they would run into stiff opposition from some body or other and end up in a fight about it. I do think it should make a strongly positive, modern contribution to the architecture of Greenwich.

  7. Jack says:

    Would they have actually had a problem if it was a more dynamic design though? It’s for the School of Architecture, and I think everyone expected a fairly unique design, which is why the current vanilla plans are slightly underwhelming.

    It’s better than the apartments which were planned for the site before the recession, but I was certainly hoping for more.

    One thing which has been put forward as a possibility is that the railway line could be covered over, which would make a fine plaza / market along with the path along the building between Stockwell St and King William Walk and the little bit of land next to the Barclays where the food stalls are.

    How do we find out who owns that land? Is it the railway, or someone else?

  8. They told me that Frank Dowling owns the bit immediately across the way – where the mini market stalls are at the moment, and that Network Rail (notoriously difficult to work with) own the tracks. But who owns the fresh air just above the tracks? I guess whoever stumps up the cash to cover it over (and negotiate with three landowners)will have those honours…

    I don’t want to be anywhere near THOSE negotiations – but it WOULD be good to have a new public space.

  9. kate says:

    As it’s for a School of Architecture why don’t the University hold a genuine RIBA competition ? Is it way to expensive? A brand new landmark building would be great alongside all the Heritage…

  10. Fogey says:

    I agree that the design is pretty feeble. The University denies this categorically, but I sense that its ambitions have been scaled back on grounds of cost.
    Whatever the reason, this is not the ambitious building we were promised, but something that looks like an off-the-peg call centre. It even manages to make John Humphries House look quite good, which is an amazing feat.
    It is also WAY too dense for the site–every square inch is going to be built on, except the cut-through.
    Memo to University: We want some open space in exchange for loss of amenity, please. And an architectural competion would have been a great idea.

  11. Mynameislee says:

    I rather like it.

    The density is appropriate as they are restoring the original street line. We are just used to a gaping hole there. Decent quality finishes will stop it looking brutalist.

    It is harsh to call it bland – it’s modest sure but I think there is nothing wrong with subtly in this site. I think everyone will be quite happy with it when it is built.

    And ultimately its a million times better than the hideous flats and hotels being flung up everywhere else around Greenwich. The Ibis opposite could do with being knocked down, as could the Novotel and the horrible new flats on Creek Road ruining the view of the Laban.

  12. Phil says:

    Often find PR/Marketing to be vomit inducing. They try to be too clever for themselves thinking that they can come up with a load of bull that people won’t see through it. They start from the assumption that the general public is dumb, why? I can think up the same bull they do and recognise when I’m being given it. What they will do with the questionnaire is have it win both ways for them. So with the question, “do you support…. to build using high standards of sustainability” if they get a no then they will discount the no’s to the client as not relevant to the brief set out.

    I think the building is a bland cold office block when a more traditional building would be much more appealing. It’s such a mistake to try and ram through a development against such public opposition by pretending everyone is in favour of it when it is hard to find any genuine favourable comments on it. Same happened down in Bournemouth with the Imax, the cinema of which had to close because no one wanted to go to such an ugly building when they had told councillors they never wanted it in the first place.

  13. Anon says:

    Does anyone have any idea what the impact will be like for residents of King Williams Walk while the building work is going on? We’ve seen a beautiful apartment there and are a bit worried by the size of the development and the level underground. Any comments from any residents who inquired about this or from anyone who has ever lived so close to a building site of this size would be hugely appreciated!

  14. Adam says:

    Ever the fan of contributing to stale threads, I would just like to say that I think the design is inappropriate given the site. Would have been much better to have something that relates to the architecture of the town centre, whether in style or material. And yes, it’s far too dense.

  15. roy says:

    I am on favour of something radical and beautiful for this site, if it works. Looking at the proposals, they do not where they meet Church St/ Stockwell St. The buildings push too far over the building line, provide no sense of gateway/ destination/ space between the building and the pavement. Viewed from both the south and the north to the Church, they are clearly bland and overdominant.

    Is there a forum to object to this formally?

    Roy