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Ubiquitous Unique

June 15, 2015
by the gentle author

I could not decide whether to laugh or cry when I visited UBIQUITOUS UNIQUE organised by RECLAIM LONDON at the Red Gallery in Rivington St.

Displaying elevations of generic box-like new buildings planned for London – captioned with the hyperbolic texts used to promote these developments – the exhibition exposes the aesthetic bankruptcy of much contemporary architecture to startling effect.

Reclaim London asks ““What future are we constructing? It is not our future as a collective. No one has asked us. Other people are making these decisions.”

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“The tower element of Plot 1 is intended to be ‘iconic’, and visible from a distance. It is designed to signal the regeneration of the market site.”

“The development will feature distinctive contemporary architecture. Rich in variety, it draws from the heritage of west London”

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“A stunning tower adding to Central London’s dynamic skyline. The place from which to write your own life story…The apartments take their inspiration from the culture and landscape of Lexicon’s location. The result is an experience that breathes luxury, glamour and delight into every home.”

“A large-scale one-off regeneration project between Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove, an area famous for its eclectic style and diverse community. Recognised for its strong sustainability ethos and distinctive contemporary architecture, the development will comprise stylish apartments, town houses and mews houses.”

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“The limited visibility of this tower, within a dense urban environment, will do little more than reinforce the internal coherence of the residential conservation areas to the east and north east. The proposed development will recede within long views, and sit comfortably within the more immediate townscape.” (Heritage Appraisal)

“We firmly believe that it is the right location for a landmark building.” (Press Statement)

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“One of the very few places in London where you can live, work and play right by the river.”

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“The primary objectives were to develop a design which responds to and embraces its location – both in its immediate local setting and in its larger context, that has an appropriate sense of scale both at street level and in the areas where it can be viewed at a distance.”

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“The building design has been refined to have a more sympathetic relationship between both The Old Post Office and The Telephone Exchange…A regular pattern of windows provides a calmness and order to the façade with lightweight upper storey punctuating the skyline.”

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“Key Objectives: To create a landmark building emphasizing the gateway to and identity of the village and the wider area, with a distinctive architectural identity.”

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“A game-changing breed of building designed by Terry Farrell & Partners. Think drop-dead gorgeous architectural details. Interiors designed for the design conscious. Communal space created to bring people together.”

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“Fourteen storey landmark development for Alperton”

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“Contributes to the enhancement or creation of local distinctiveness.” (Heritage Appraisal)

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“As part of the redevelopment, land will be gifted to Lambeth Council to create a new primary school.”

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“A rare place in London where people can live in and around outstanding modern architecture.”

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“The proposals seek to respect the form, scale and grain of the surrounding townscape, and will make a positive contribution to the character of the area.” (Planning Statement)

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“The Plimsoll Building is named in honour of Samuel Plimsoll, an important social reformer. Residents will enjoy a dedicated twenty-four hour concierge, private dining space and business lounge, and a well-equipped fitness suite.”
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RECLAIM LONDON aims to bring together everyone who has a concern about how London is being developed, to argue strongly for change: campaign and community groups form the core as well as individuals and interested professionals.
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Click here to join Reclaim London
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UBIQUITOUS UNIQUE at the Red Gallery is open today and closes tomorrow, Tuesday June 16th at 6pm. There will be a lunchtime discussion at the gallery at 1pm on Tuesday.
39 Responses leave one →
  1. June 15, 2015

    The developers certainly have elevated bullshit into an art form. “an experience that breathes luxury, glamour and delight into every home”. What does this even mean? It is sickening, I hope these monstrosities stay on the drawing board.

  2. Jeannette Smyth permalink
    June 15, 2015

    wow. that’s what mike davis calls “mussolini architecture” in City of Quartz, about the relentless drive to privatize public space by building these monumental buildings and driving people of color, as well as pedestrians and sidewalk life of all kinds, out of the city.

  3. June 15, 2015

    Nightmare visions! Valerie

  4. David S permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Depressing as hell.

    But isn’t the question “What future are we constructing?” the wrong one? Isn’t the real question “For whom are we constructing the future?”–and if so, isn’t the real answer “Foreign investment companies that don’t give a rat’s arse for aesthetics or community or culture but only for renters’ pounds to fill their coffers?”

    Global banks have swooped in to determine the future of our cities. And except for groups like Reclaim London and Save Norton Folgate we’ve rolled out the red carpet for them. God help us.

  5. Lancelot Taylor permalink
    June 15, 2015

    This surely must be a send-up!

  6. Vicky permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Oh dear, oh dear, this is all so awful – and brought home to us in such a clever, witty way. Yes indeed, laugh and weep.

  7. June 15, 2015

    poor Mr Plimsoll must be turning in his grave!

  8. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Theyre horrible,What a total lack of talent,originality & imagination!

  9. Greg Tingey permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Both Joe Stalin & Albert Speer would have been proud of those drawings, & even more pleased by the propaganda accompanying them.

  10. June 15, 2015

    Two of the drawings seemed to offer something, the rest just grim. So much crazy redevelopment almost everywhere these days. Where I live, not only does the council support building on a green space in the town centre but the box like development will block the impact of our well designed, rather magnificent, civic buildings and their triple arch entrance. Meanwhile, prime development land, where old – and sometimes architecturally significant buildings – have been demolished, lies empty. They are also considering removing a wall from our listed and well regarded Victorian Town Hall and replacing it with glass and making that section into a café. Local campaigners are attempting to halt.
    What has happened to our sense of heritage? Heritage should help inform urban planning in our towns and cities, not be viewed simply as the preservation of large stately homes and ancient priories (as important as that is!) I have no issue with redevelopment but it needs to be keeping and the redevelopment of existing buildings of value (but not sticking glass walls into grand Victorian Designs)

  11. Jean Rossi permalink
    June 15, 2015

    As the grandchild of 2 grandparents from Spitalfields and 2 from Shadwell all of immigrant status background – Prussian Jew/Irish Catholics – I grew up watching the demolition of `post war East End and the building of the first tower blocks and hearing the people saying they did not want to give up their small houses and yards – for a flat – I feel I can add my pennyworth. I love art, I love beautiful modern architecture – but I love human beings more. And they are more important too, than the ego of some architect firm or the drive of capitalism for profit with disregard for human life without humanity. They are beautiful drawings. But where is the human being and the scale versus human life on the street and on the pavement on in the community. I recently returned to Aldgate and environs and I could hardly breath with shock and being overwhelmed at street level by the size of the glass and concrete looming over me on the pavement and the remnants of the original East End. A restored Georgian house is beautiful and restored Georgian terrace is better. That is how humans want to live. For them to be loomed over by 5 or 6 storey plus glass monoliths makes listing a laughing stock! These buildings could be beautiful in areas like cleared docklands or say Stratford etc where the environment could be designed for human interaction as was aimed at by New Towns. They kill the human community at street level in an historic residential area. How can there be conservation areas in Spitalfields et al without that including the skyline and cityscape. What on earth is conservation if it does not include the environs and skyline and human life and community interaction. What ever happened to town planning – did no one learn from the mistakes of the 1950s and 1960s. Basildon as first designed was a lovely town, and unbelievably was ruined during the 1970′s with the drive for economy, profit, and car parks, houses shrunk, estates were built with narrow and dark pedestrian access [!!], car park monstrosities were added to a beautifully coherent design and corrupted the visual, the access and the humanity. How can someone get turned down for a small extension or a roof/loft conversion whilst someone else builds either an ugly impractical car park or a glass block meant for commuters or so called art community. An art or tech community DOES NOT need to live in Central London in monoliths towering over one of the most ancient areas of London. That is what tech means!! Nor do we Londoners need any more hotel rooms at £100 per night. We are not Disneyworld. A cultural heritage site is not Butlins! Aaarrgghhh – the 1950s all over again!!

  12. June 15, 2015

    Slab after slab after slab….

  13. Jean Rossi permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Somehow I forgot one para from my previous perhaps long winded comment. AND THEN THERE is that “motorola” obscenity. I grew up around the docks [Free Trade Wharf] and Tower of London. The skyline is inseparable from the landscape – listing buildings or making conservation areas is no use if there is a monstrosity looming over it on the horizon. Does nobody remember the so called 2012 Olympic Mascot – so like a penis it was subtly and mostly “disappeared”! Take another look at the Motorola thingy and you might be minded of the erased penile mascot for what ended up being a major positive for Londoners. What on earth is this thing doing in the background of our river, The Tower and many other historic buildings. Keep these things out and in a ghetto of their own – if whole areas have to be cleared as the central London Docks and industrial areas are extinct build them there with proper planning of human community and interaction included. There is absolutely no need for any more office space. Blocks of flats require community and street level and humanity planning – accessing the lessons learned from the post War disasters and successes. More Aaarrggh! What is that thing doing in my sight behind the Tower of London!! I recommend a Google search for Olympic mascots! Motorola ? ……… no something much worse ………

  14. sarah steer permalink
    June 15, 2015

    asides from the issue of tower blocks,high rise, etc as suitable living places, there isn’t one ‘design’ which hasn’t already been built in London – look around.

  15. June 15, 2015

    Just awful. How utterly depressing. I hope these don’t come off. Brutalism gone mad. Thanks so much GA for bringing these proposals to wider attention.

  16. Jean Rossi permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Oh dear, I am turning in IRATE OF TUNBRIDGE WELLS in The Times of old! In addition, I lived in the Cornwall and Devon for some years. Only recently people renovating a derelict cow barn to an Edwardian Farmhouse which was originally the farm house were told they had to keep the roof lower. It was already the equiv of 2 storeys plus lower than the roof of the Edwardian Farm House which they also owned! How can councils in Devon and Cornwall be issuing ridiculous edicts over minor household designs whilst our capital is growing into a theme park for short stay visitors. The city monoliths only detract from the authentic architecture. They are incongruous no matter how they are dressed up. They may make wonderful drawings, beautiful models at the RSA, but they only exist for themselves they have no connection with the community and environs of London. How on earth can Planners in London being doing one thing and Planners elsewhere be nit picking over minutae. The Emperor’s New Clothes fable comes to mind – but it will be too late – if it is not already too late. Look at Prague – it was beautiful – it could have been renovated with some care – instead it is now an extension of Disneyworld. Tourism may be the final False Idol. Oh dear I am ranting on…….. but as a Londoner it is inexplicable to me that we have not learnt the lessons of the 1950s and now willingly and dissolutely worship the God of Capitalism [or is it Mammon] rather than Humanity and Community and Intelligence. Final Aaarrgghh! I promise…..!!

  17. Bronchitikat permalink
    June 15, 2015

    They’ve certainly got their Double Speak going! The designs just look grim and as for any relevance to their immediate area . . .

    Trouble is profit is the motivation. Anything else – local relevance, Green, even ‘affordable’ is just too expensive and has to be legislated for, and enforced!

  18. Patty/NS permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Seriously?! What a mess of 60′s bland architecture, rehashing the past of souless building. Cheap builds! How will these souless structures ‘enhance’ the neighbourhood? I am a Canadian and certainly if I ever get to London this is not a neighbourhood I would want to visit or see.

  19. roger carr permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Maybe Londoners should look to Barcelona for an example – take to the streets and do something. But voting for David and Boris is voting for more of this horrendous ugliness.
    Time to “act up” and fight back?

  20. Jill permalink
    June 15, 2015

    How depressing. We assume (wrongly) that the professional planners operate quality control, but it never seems to be the case.

  21. Karen permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Sometimes the promotional blurb is actually accurate:

    “That the design for a thousand maisonettes in long curved terraces will give a touch of eighteenth century grace and dignity to municipal housing is welcome indeed.”

    This was said about the (then) proposed Hulme development in Manchester – which turned out to be a little too 18th century for many of the residents.

  22. Pauline Taylor permalink
    June 15, 2015

    If it is a choice between laughing and crying I know which these make me do, weep, weep and weep some more. They are so symptomatic of the lack of any architectural skills in the times that we live in, none of them show any talent at all to me, just appalling, and as for the accompanying blurb, well words fail me !!

    Pauline.

  23. Itziko permalink
    June 15, 2015

    “The limited visibility of this tower, within a dense urban environment, will do little more than reinforce the internal coherence of the residential conservation areas to the east and north east. The proposed development will recede within long views, and sit comfortably within the more immediate townscape.” (Heritage Appraisal)

    Ooooh! the Amazing Invisible Building! I hope it comes with a free GPS key-ring.

    Bullshit of the highest caliber.

  24. Eileen Bates permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Oh dear…..oh dearie me….it’s enough to make you weep….

  25. Elaine Napier permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Do you remember all those abominations of concrete blocks of flats built in the 1960s? And how they told us they were just what we needed, and knocked down all the beautiful Victorian terraces all over London to build those concrete blocks even though the people said no? Then, suddenly, they said they had to knock down all the concrete blocks which had beco9me appalling and inappropriate, and build small squares and streets which were much better?

    Are they too stupid to see that they’re just doing it again? Or don’t they care that only the grossest, ugliest, trashiest constructions built for only the greediest, most selfish people can ever succeed in this city?

    Listen to the Londoners who care about this place, and ignore the developers and investors who are only interested in stuffing their pockets with greedy money.

  26. Val permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Doesn’t this make you want to scream and rush down to the place wherever the dim wits, dunderheads , morons, and puffed up philistines( who obviously employ very little creativity or brain power) come up with these cold , ugly, soulless , monstrous boxes ~ and throttle them all ? AND insist they too must live and work in these boxes they ‘design’ and stay there for the rest of their lives. It makes me see red and how ANYONE in their right mind could possibly prefer any of these buildings , particularly to live or go to school in , is just beyond me. Just looking at the drawings depresses me beyond words. They have no humanity or character in them at all~ or apparently any concern shown whatsoever for the fact humans will be actually living, working in such bleak , soul destroying structures~

  27. Steph permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Samuel Plimsoll must be turning in his grave. This is the worst dystopian nightmare visited on London. The housing issue in London is just one major symptom of our 21st dysfunction as a society/community. We have to channel anger, enlivened with some humour and muted tears to resist this. 2008, we had a chance to re-think the shape and tone of capitalism. We failed to do so. All comes down to ethos and values. Look at the hold of the right wing today and their horsemen of the apocalypse’s control of the media – we have to unite to say no.

    Wish I had found out about this exhibition before today.

  28. Graham Bould permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Many other readers have eloquently commented on these thoroughly depressing proposals. All I can say is that I have never read such a load of baloney as these “puffs for ugliness”. Truly, the love of money can be the root of evil, for there is nothing in these plans to sustain the spirit or nurture the soul, only an appeal to Mammon.

  29. aubrey permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Nice drawings. Much of it reminds me of the Moscow University type architecture. I think it’s called Stalin baroque! They’re ‘aving a laugh! Much of the strangulated management prose are a must for pseuds corner. Or as John MacInroe would say “They can’t be serious”. Must be a belated April fool’s send-up.

  30. Peter Holford permalink
    June 15, 2015

    I spotted the terms ‘stunning’ and ‘game-changing’. I can’t argue with that. The developers are showing increasing signs of megalomania worthy of any totalitarian regime. There’s nothing new in that but in most democracies the planning authorities and other guardians of our environment normally knock them down to size. And that’s the difference – our guardians are either asleep at the wheel (English Heritage) or they are in cahoots with these modern vandals (Boris Johnson).

  31. Jean Rossi permalink
    June 15, 2015

    And then I also have to add – have we not learnt the lessons regarding the impact of shadows?! These buildings may be environmentally built/heated (so they might claim) but the shadow cast through daylight hours over other properties and streets will make for really cold August pavements, and soaring heating bills for those in their very long shadows. Will the developers. Funders or tenants be forced to subsidise (pay) any increase in heating and/or lighting costs in their 360 degree vicinity. Will they have to pay increased taxes to pay for any increase inNHS costs due to people’s sudden exposure on a day of 22/25 degrees Centigrade to 10/15 degrees in shade but inappropriately dressed for such encounters. The massive increase in volume of air conditioning? What is the impact on air quality. Who pays for the direct environmental impact of these monsters. Who says we want to live like ants in black shadows of capitalist expansion gone mad! As someone whose health was ruined in the 70s by air conditioning air quality/temperatures I speak for the invisible people with chronic lung and breathing disorders triggered by first contact with air conditioning in The City! You get sick in your 50s and 60s and the Developers, Lessees, Sellers, lease backers, maintenance company and employers are long gone!! How will we work out their tax payment for killing a whole area of pavement life with inhuman ground level architecture and freezing cold pavements. Aaarrgghh! Did we learn nothing in the 50s and 60s!!

  32. Gary Arber permalink
    June 15, 2015

    There is one bright side to this programme of monsters.
    You oh Gentle Author will have a life time of horror buildings to rally your troops to fight,
    You should have an active brain into very great age and go to your maker in great contentment.
    Have fun
    Gary

  33. Neville Turner permalink
    June 15, 2015

    Wow. All I can say is uncle Joe Stalin eat your heart out.

  34. robin clark permalink
    June 16, 2015

    Hideous hogwash

  35. Mackay-stevens permalink
    June 16, 2015

    Plimsoll building, is actually above a school for the deaf and an primary school, before you all get uppity. In an area which used to be wasteland around Kings Cross station. The rest of the buildings, are pretty damn awful. Some of the towers that go up, especially in the Shoreditch area, which has always been pretty low-rise makes me very sad. Blandness personified.

  36. Ellen in NEW England permalink
    June 16, 2015

    boring and uggly!

  37. Jonathan permalink
    June 17, 2015

    “Key objectives: To come up with a positive sounding post-modernist description that will convince someone to give us permission to put up a huge building as cheaply as possible in order to make an obscene amount of profit for an already wealthy individual regardless of the effect such a development may have on the local community or existing landscape”

    Fixed that for them.

  38. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    June 19, 2015

    What an absolute load of codswallop!Nothing shown there could replace Georgian architecture!Were the designers influenced by Bucharest & other Eastern bloc countries!Its awful!

  39. Barbara permalink
    February 2, 2016

    As happens everywhere now, one of our lovely pubs closed down (after a cheap chain took over the one opposite). Then the demolishers moved in. They left the very old façade up and knocked down everything behind it. Then suddenly the façade disappeared as well.
    Now we have a row of houses that mimic the style of the pub.
    The sad thing is that a previous owner had put in for permission to become a B & B. Was refused on grounds that they had insufficient parking – even though its back door opened on to the main town car park! It would have been well used by people on their way to the ferry terminal less than 20 miles away.

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