Following the recent article in Bloomberg News about the redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station, I begin to see the logic behind what is proposed.
The development of London Bridge Station by Irvine Sellar has been pretty successful. Whilst the Shard, designed by Renzo Piano, is not universally admired (I do admire it), it certainly does not detract from the railway station below which has been refurbished by Grimshaw. So, Irvine’s son, James, then went on to employ Renzo Piano to design a monster 19-storey tower block, known colloquially and for obvious reasons as The Cube, on the east side of Paddington Station. This was much more contentious. The building is on a vast scale, but it is in the nondescript, industrial area round Paddington Basin. It is out of scale with its surroundings, but got planning permission. As a concept, Piano said that ‘When you exit [Paddington] station you will see a clear floating cube ‘levitating’ above the ground’.
With the redevelopment of Liverpool Station, there is very little space alongside the station, although it should be pointed out that there is actually a large and semi-redundant plaza outside the west entrance of the Elizabeth line. So, someone had the bright idea of putting a version of the Paddington Cube ‘levitating’ on top of the existing Victorian Station, irrespective of the architectural character and significance of the original station and its accompanying late Victorian hotel.
At this point, someone – either Jacques Herzog or Pierre de Meuron – should have said that this is a completely horrible idea. You can’t just put a building of the twenty first century on top of a building of the late nineteenth century without any sense of relationship and integration between them. It is visually and architecturally offensive. But I suppose that Herzog and de Meuron is now a monster international practice and may as a result have lost a sense of integrity in what it now does on its corporate side and so the partners, or much more likely the employees of the UK office, agreed. Interestingly, they do not show the Liverpool Street Station project on their website. They are probably rightly embarrassed by it.
Bang goes their reputation as architects of thoughtfulness and intelligence. They will now be forever associated with a horrible glass box which exemplifies all the worst aspects of contemporary corporate greed.
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