Developer Irving Sellar and architect Renzo Piano have redesigned their “Paddington Pole” residential tower proposal, proposing instead a lower office block.
The new Paddington Cube proposal has been out to public consultation, ahead of a planned submission to Westminster planners this autumn. In place of the 72 storey residential tower, is a rectilinear glazed block of offices 14 storeys high. It would contain 360,000 sq ft of offices, and 80,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant space. In common with the previous scheme, there would be improvements to the public realm and the Bakerloo line underground station.
The 72 storey skyscraper was withdrawn after its submission to Westminster planners, after almost universal criticism from all quarters, with many arguing that the landmark was simply too tall, and out of place in Paddington.
“As a gateway to a global city via Heathrow, it’s important we have outstanding architecture,” Sellar told Property Week. “Towers are not the only way to achieve outstanding architecture, which I hope we have shown. “
Sellar admitted that the move to offices did reflect the change in the London market, which has seen sales of luxury residential apartments slow in recent months – with further weakening predicted following the Brexit vote. But he did not rule out the potential for residential in later stages of development in the area.
But the revised proposal has not satisfied all the complainers. Architectural critic Simon Jenkins dismissed the new design, in the Standard: “it is awful. It is just that, a huge 18-floor glass box flown in from somewhere in Dubai. It will blast off the face of Paddington, demolish a usable, dignified Neo-Baroque sorting office and replace it with a rectangle of glass, at vast expense in materials and energy.”
In May, research institute Create Streets revealed the winner of a competition it held, to generate alternative designs for the area around Paddington station. Architects JTP and charity Civic Voice were judged to have come up with the best option, after a two day workshop involving local residents. Nicholas Boys Smith of Create Streets said the competition was designed in a “positive spirit” to generate ideas, not to criticise either Sellar or Westminster council.
Their proposal would create a car-free space, Brunel Square, lined with shops and cafes and keeping the facade of the Royal Mail sorting office building. Competition judge councillor Brian Connell commented: “This scheme has shown how, with thought and flair, options which are much more acceptable to the local community can be created.”
But the ideas were, noted developer Sellar, based on a larger site than that which Sellar actually controls.
LPA Perspective: Sellar and Piano had to react to the highly negative response to their tower scheme. Dropping it entirely, the revised proposals instead switch to office development – noting the growing weakness in the capital’s high end residential market. The move will also probably find favour with Westminster, which is still smarting from the loss of office space in the borough, due to permitted development conversions which it was powerless to control.
An uncompromisingly modern block will never satisfy the traditionalists, but also ticks some other planning boxes, to do with the development of dense employment zones at transport nodes. In that respect at least, the project responds to what has been asked for. And it is no more problematic as a design, than the other new blocks of offices around the station, from Paddington Central to the schemes around Paddington Basin.