Home > Architecture & Urban Design, London, People, Things I DON'T Like > The Future of Architecture? (I Sincerely Hope Not)

The Future of Architecture? (I Sincerely Hope Not)

I’ve just read this piece in today’s Guardian and to say it fills me with horror at the start of a new year is something of an understatement… The reason for the article is a proposal for a new housing development near Hyde Park by the father and son architectural practice of Quinlan and Francis Terry, and believe it or not, the proposal looks like this…. d650d1f4-2394-41bd-b5da-5dcd2a221e3c-2060x1236 The article suggests that the scheme takes inspiration from the long, 19th Century mansion blocks that form much of Hausmann’s celebrated plan for Paris. Haussmann_Paris But look again and you’ll see that the simplicity, rigor, and control of a typical Hausmann block has been lost to the overcomplicated and confused self aggrandisement of a Loire Valley Chateau, and has nothing at all to do with housing people in contemporary London, and everything to do with overseas marketing… Chateaus Loire Valley And whilst I understand the arguments for so called “groundscraper” proposals like this: over development in the number and quality of tall buildings currently going up across London, their representation of faceless, corporate, developer greed and the destruction of the city’s historic urban grain, being three that are usually trotted out, I am at a total loss to understand how copying a 170 year old building type from another country will address any of these issues…

To me the key point is when the article refers to the Richard Rogers proposals at Chelsea Barracks, and the intervention directly to the site’s owners by Prince Charles, a move that resulted in the expensive scrapping of a well considered, contemporary and recommended for approval scheme, and the creation of a worryingly conservative approach by wealthy, predominantly overseas developers and investors that view Royal approval with greater importance than Statutory approval…

And think on how this building might look and be constructed should (god forbid) it ever got the go ahead.. It’s common knowledge that the specialist materials, skills and techniques required to construct this type of edifice either no longer exist or do so at such a high price, that the finished building will either be so pared down as to look nothing like the original drawings (think Richmond Riverside) or be so expensive once finished, that the properties will only be affordable to ever more super wealthy owners, totally defeating the point in my view, of building more new homes…. It’s still developer greed, just cloaked in a different (Frock) coat…

I don’t object in an unthinking, knee jerk reaction way to the work of the Terry family practice (their recently completed block on Tottenham Court Road (below) for example, works remarkably well), but I do object to proposals that are in every sense out of time, out of scale, over the top and to my eyes at least, ugly and totally misjudged…

terry2 I really do not enjoy writing “Things I DON’T like..” posts (especially the first one of the year) but I’m more than prepared to nail my colours to the mast and state categorically that I believe that anachronistic, derivative and wholly inappropriate proposals such as this for the prestigious Hyde Park Barracks site, should not be given any credence whatsoever, except perhaps to be held up for ridicule and as a prime example of what NOT to do…

And don’t get me started on what is proposed for demolition to make way for this abomination.. only the wonderful 1970’s Barracks buildings by Britain’s greatest architect, Sir Basil Spence.

I’m so upset by this act of wanton vandalism that I can’t write anything further at this moment in time, but I will revisit this, have not doubt. In the meantime why not remind yourself how Sir Basil described his proposals by watching this short video… especially when he describes as “ludicrous”, the idea that living near the park is like living in the country… the man’s face is an absolute picture…


  1. Arch
    January 5, 2015 at 08:53

    Too right!

    • January 5, 2015 at 09:49

      Cheers Arch
      I knew I could rely on your support..
      HNY to you and the family. Jx

  2. Tim
    January 5, 2015 at 12:08

    I think the barracks are ugly so I won’t be sorry to see them go but maybe this new building is too big & could be compromised in the execution as you suggest.
    I don’t like the expensive apartment block at Knightsbridge Station.
    The building at Tottenham Ct Road is ok but I thought unnecessary, the YMCA building nearby should go.
    I do worry about the super rich & their effect on property prices in London, I think it will not end well.

    • January 6, 2015 at 10:50

      I have to disagree about the barracks, but you’re email has reminded me that the buildings planned for demolition to make way for the monstrosity above were designed by my favourite architect Sir Basil Spence.. Can’t believe I didn’t make the connection when I wrote this post.. DOH!! I’ll have to rectify that pretty sharpish..
      As always, thanks for taking the time to comment

  3. Tim
    January 5, 2015 at 12:17

    I guess a lot of our classical buildings stole things from abroad & reinterpreted them, temples into museums & the like.

  4. Sajjad Rahmano
    March 23, 2015 at 21:37


    If this imaginative and awe inspiring scheme goes ahead, the world will once again be reminded how iconic architecture in Great Britain is. The proposal looks like a cross between Avenue Foch in Paris (the grandeur of which was admired by Queen Victoria) and Harrods.

    As a juxtaposition, I have yet to meet anyone who has said anything positive about the One Hyde Park development other than how expensive apartments in the building were. Let’s hope we can finally see something that is befitting to Knightsbridge.

    No one is suggesting that a continuum of out-of-date apartments are erected in such an important site. Instead we have a team of probably the greatest architects of our time who will no doubt do Sir Basel Spence proud by reviving the elegance of yesteryear and harmonise it beautifully with the modernity and requirements of today.

    Think of our motoring prowess globally when it comes to luxury cars for example. Bentley motors, makers of the state limousine use some of finest traditional craftsmanship in the world and combine it beautifully with state-of-the-art technology of tomorrow; this proposed scheme draws many parallels.

    Finally, a royal endorsement from a debonair gentlemen who knows a thing or two about architecture (and refined taste!) and how it fits in with the immediate area is reason enough to back the project.

    Yes all the way!


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