Paternoster Square London England UK a second go at an important urban precinct 19562003

Paternoster Square is the only case study in this book where one new urban design project was demolished and replaced by another. The precinct's history highlights: (1) the necessity to take market conditions into consideration in designing complexes of buildings, (2) the danger of embracing a currently fashionable design paradigm that is inappropriate for dealing with the task at hand and (3) the impact of changing clients on the urban designing process. In addition, designing a complex adjacent to a major historical landmark raises a host of deeply felt emotional concerns for a large dispersed community.

Sixteen years after the devastation of the area north of St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London by German bombing in 1942 during The Blitz, Sir William Holford prepared a proposal for the redevelopment of the precinct. The site stretches from St Paul's Cathedral to Newgate Street. Holford's scheme was a total urban design, Modernist in its layout and architecture. It was built between 1961 and 1967. The client was the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB)

Paternoster Square Analys
Figure 8.36 The Paternoster development: Lord Holford's design, 1967. (a) The figure-ground relationship and (b) a bird's eye view.

which had obtained a long-term lease of the site from the Church Commissioners of the Church of England.

The Holford scheme consisted of narrow rectangular, slab, commercial buildings set within an orthogonal site geometry (see Figure 8.36). Their height was restricted by their closeness to St Paul's - a control imposed by the Church Commissioners and one that still exists. They were designed to provide good light to office interiors. The buildings in day-to-day operation proved to be less than functional. Their shape did not meet the deep-plan requirements for commercial space at the time. Many critics and lay-people thought the development was lifeless and boring - a grim pedestrianized piazza. It was considered to reflect the functional theories of the Bauhaus Rationalist design ideology not British values. Much was shoddily built. During the 1980s the precinct became increasingly abandoned and the site came up for redevelopment.

In 1986, the site ownership (except for Sudbury House) passed from CEGB to a consortium consisting of Stockly, British Land, Unilever and Barclays Bank on a 250-year lease from the church. A year later the

Mountleigh Group acquired Stockly (and its portion of control over the site) and then sold it on to Cisneros of Venezuela. The transactions reflected the buoyancy of the London property market at that time. The search for a design more appropriate for the site than that of Holford began in earnest. Ownership of the lease subsequently changed hands 'promiscuously' several times over the next 10 years (1995-2004). Greycoat and Park Tower acquired the property to be later replaced by Mitsubishi Estates (MEC).

An architectural competition organized by Stuart Lipton, a developer, on behalf of the Mountleigh Group was held in 1986. The figure ground studies of the proposals of the seven shortlisted architects are shown in Figure 8.37. Arup Associates was selected to proceed. Their design was a complicated neoRationalist one proposing the use of abstract historical referents in the buildings that formed it. The buildings were also designed to meet the commercial need of the marketplace for deep, highly serviced space. The proposal was criticized by Prince Charles whose views were widely supported by the lay-public. He argued for a more classical approach to design. John Simpson completed another

Paternoster Square Analys
Figure 8.37 Figure-ground plans of the 1986 shortlisted proposals in comparison to Holford's scheme.

scheme proposed by Prince Charles' advisors Dan Cruickshank and Leon Krier.

The Simpson scheme was also a competition winner. In this case the sponsor of the competition was a newspaper, The Evening Standard. Simpson tried to combine 'functional' requirements in a complex consisting of an underground shopping mall and office buildings with classical fa├žades. It was part of the Classical tradition in English architecture. His design went through several changes. A joint John Simpson/Terry Farrell scheme proposed in conjunction with a number of renowned classical architects (e.g. Allan Greenberg, Hammond, Beeby and Babka, and Quinlan Terry) was submitted unsuccessfully for planning approval. The recession of 1993 appears to have killed the possibility of implementing it. While it initially received Prince Charles' approval, the scheme was widely dismissed by critics as a 'pastiche'. While the proposed implementation process is unclear, it was presented as a single comprehensive product (Figure 8.38).

In 1995, MEC bought out its partners and appointed William Whitfield as master planner for the site. His scheme was adopted in 1996; demolition of the Holford project proceeded over the next 3 years and the new project was completed in October 2003. The scheme is an all-of-a-piece urban design and Neo-Traditional in character. The master plan strove to achieve a visual integration with the architecture of St Paul's by picking up on the stone and brick of Christopher Wren's design for the Chapter House of the Cathedral that now forms part of the scheme. Today the precinct contains 1 million square feet (110,000 square metres) of offices and shops (but no housing) in a number of independent buildings.

The London Stock Exchange, Goldman Sachs International and CB Richard Ellis are major tenants. The site plan consists of a large central square and pedestrian ways that link it to St Paul's, to the underground station and to Newgate Street. In the centre of the square is a 23 metre-high column topped by a gold-leafed copper finial that is floodlit at night. A statue of a man driving sheep - the area was once a livestock market - stands at one entrance to the square (Figure 8.39).

Five different architects designed the buildings following specific guidelines that have ensured a unified yet diverse design. The firms involved were MacCormac, Jamieson Prichard (Warwick Court), Eric Parry Architects/Sheppard Robson (10 Paternoster Square), Allies & Morrison (St Martin's Court), and Whitfield Partners with Sidell Gibson and Sheppard Robson (the buildings along St Paul's Churchyard). The results have been both praised and criticized. The site design has been praised for its plaza and links to its surroundings but the architecture has been criticized as banal (Glancey, 2003). The fundamental controversy remains. Is it better for a new complex to reflect its surroundings or be in contrast with them when it is adjacent to a major, psychologically important building such as St Paul's? Many people now think that the position of contrast taken by Holford was the correct position. It is a pity that his design was so bleak and an eyesore to so many.

Major references

Buchanan, Peter (1989). Paternoster pressure.

Architectural Review 185 (1107): 76-80. Freiman, Ziva (1990), Controversy: Paternoster

Square. Progressive Architecture 71 (3): 115-16.

Paternoster Square Analys
Figure 8.38 The Hammond, Beeby & Babke, Porphyrios Associates and John Simpson & Partners design. (a) The Figure-ground plan and (b) the image sought.

Glancey, Jonathan (2003). It's a jumble out there. The Guardian (3 November). http://www.guardian. co.uk/arts/critic/feature/0,1169.1076585.html Papadakis, Andreas C., ed. (1992). Paternoster Square and the Classical Tradition. London: Academy Editions.

Paternoster Square: http://www.paternosterlondon. co.uk

Weston, Richard (2001). The end of the affair. RIBA Journal 108 (4): 13-16.

Paternoster Square Analys

Figure 8.39 Paternoster Square: the Whitfield design. (a) The plan and (b) the square with Warwick Court in the background and 10 Paternoster Square on the right.

Figure 8.39 Paternoster Square: the Whitfield design. (a) The plan and (b) the square with Warwick Court in the background and 10 Paternoster Square on the right.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment