The Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s first project in Britain has just been launched. The Peninsula Place development is planned for North Greenwich, next to the O2 Stadium (formerly known as the fairly unsuccessful Millennium Dome).
At an estimated £1 billion it will stretch over 130 000m2 and include a new metro and bus station as well as shops, bars and cafés, an entertainment venue and three tower blocks with offices, a hotel and flats. Everything is linked to the Thames with a bridge in true Calatrava style. Part of the design brief also stated that 25% of the housing must be ‘affordable’, a condition set by the City of London.
But the Guardian is not convinced of the merits of the design. While Calatrava says the project is a synthesis of the type of work that has filled his career – a bridge, a transport hub and public space – the Guardian says the three towers is a lame imitation of the work of the Danish Bjarke Ingels, and the atrium has been lifted from a shopping centre in the Eighties. The bridge is simply a repetition of work already seen elsewhere.
“It is the kind of hermetic podium-based architecture familiar to Hong Kong but alien to London, lifting pedestrians up into the air rather than making the streets work at ground level. The site doesn’t need a bridge at all, when a pedestrian crossing would do – but why let that stand in the way of adding an extra Calatrava signature?”
Calatrava – who has 50 bridges, seven transport hubs and countless public spaces on his CV – also brings another inheritance: various of his projects eventually cost considerably more than the initial budget and several law suits involving projects he has been involved with, have been filed.
Peninsula Place is part of a regeneration project of about £8,4 billion of a former industrial area of about 60 hectares. It is across the river from Canary Wharf and is described as one of the biggest regeneration projects by a single developer in the UK. It is due for completion in 2032.
It will comprise of 15 720 new houses in seven neighbourhoods, of which 3 930 must be ‘affordable’.