Almost a year ago the Friends became aware of a 42 storey skyscraper, under construction in Stratford, that was destroying the historic, protected view of St Paul's Cathedral from King Henry's Mound in Richmond Park.
The Friends mounted a huge media campaign against the construction: a petition which attracted 10,000 signatures, press releases published in online journals, national & local newspapers, interviews on BBC television and local radio, a processionary protest march through the park with the local MP and key stakeholders, a poster & leaflet campaign and a huge following on social media.
We also brought the issue to the attention of the Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral, other organisations such as Historic England, English Heritage and the London Forum, and we sent a letter to the Mayor of London asking him to investigate what has happened and put measures in place to prevent further damage.
As a result of our actions the Mayor instructed London planners to consult with the GLA before approving planning requests for high rise buildings anywhere in Greater London which, if constructed, would be visible from the established viewpoints from which St Paul’s can be seen.
Now one year on The Mayor's new ruling has become firmly embedded into planning procedures and below is a recent article, from The Architects' Journal, about a building (Olympicopolis – see artist's impression above) that has been halved in height as a result of the Mayor's ruling.
The AJ understands a major revision of Allies and Morrison’s £1.3 billion Olympicopolis scheme has more than halved the height of its twin towers, and left the Victoria and Albert Museum looking for an additional site
According to an insider source, the two residential towers – originally set to be 47 storeys – have been reduced in height as a result of a row over protected views of St Paul’s Cathedral. They are now expected to each be around 20 storeys.
The AJ has learned that the drop in height has affected the rest of the scheme, with another source saying it was ‘likely’ a smaller space would be allocated to the V&A…………………….
……….Olympicopolis, also known as the Stratford Waterfront, has been masterplanned by Allies and Morrison working in a team that includes RIBA Gold Medal winner O’Donnell + Tuomey and emerging Spanish talent Arquitecturia. The development will also feature a new space for Sadler’s Wells dance company and a campus for the London College of Fashion.
The AJ understands that the V&A’s decision to look for an extra east London base has also been driven by the government selling off Blythe House, in west Kensington, which holds parts of its archives.
In 2015, the government announced it would provide £150 million to fund ‘world-class museum storage facilities’ as a replacement for Blythe House, which also contains collections from the British Museum and Science Museum.
Responding to the claims, a V&A spokesperson said: ‘We continue to work closely with LLDC as an active partner on the revised masterplan for Stratford Waterfront.
‘Our plans for a jointly curated space with the Smithsonian continue to develop, as does our close collaboration with our other partners on the project: Sadler’s Wells, UAL London College of Fashion and UCL.
‘Separately, the government’s decision to sell Blythe House has presented the V&A with an extraordinary opportunity: to make more of our world-class collections accessible to the public, and to do so in innovative and engaging ways. This has led us to redefine the ambition of the V&A East project; putting our collections at the heart of an expanded brief. This work is ongoing, and we look forward to making announcements when it is complete.’
The LLDC declined to comment.
The Stratford Waterfront vision was first unveiled by the then London mayor Boris Johnson in 2013, who dubbed the scheme the ’Olympicopolis’. The chancellor at the time, George Osborne, committed £141 million to the project in 2014. It is expected to complete in 2022.
Last year the scheme’s brick and glass designs were heavily criticised by leading architects Peter Cook, Will Alsop and Ian Ritchie, who described the development as ‘dull as ditchwater’, ‘under-amplified Vivaldi’ and ‘tried and tired’.
Photo: Artist's impression of proposed Olympicopolis, prior to the Mayor's action (image by Forbes Massie)