Tuesday 22 October 2013

"From the ground up...up...up..."; comments on recent press coverage.

The 'new' Farrells masterplan, is not a new masterplan.

The previous Aedas masterplan proposed 3,500 homes, three towers above 32 storeys, 2000+ parking spaces, shops, a hotel, some green space, and a nod to the history of the site.

There is not a single new concept in this masterplan, besides a gesture towards the ideas promoted by Deptford Is...

Masterplanning is a process of visualising, imagining and re-imagining. But this new-old plan is the same number of Lego bricks in the same size tin. 

© BBC London News, 19 October 2013

When Sir Terry Farrell was selected by Hutchison Whampoa to review the failed Aedas masterplan, Sir Terry, in the presence of Hutchison Whampoa’s UK director Edmond Ho, publicly promised the people of Deptford a new masterplan for the site of Henry VIII’s royal dockyard and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court Garden, now Convoy’s Wharf. They would start "from the ground up". What did he mean?

Farrell’s architects recently claimed on BBC London News (above) to have used the character and history of the site to inform their masterplan. But it must be remembered that the quantum of units at 3,500 apartments, the typology of high rise towers of up to 48 storeys rising out of 12 storey blocks with their enclosed private green spaces resting on the top of four storeys of car parking – plus blanket preservation in situ of the historic dockyard structures – were all features of the previous Aedas masterplan (2012) which was unanimously rejected by the local community, English Heritage, Council for British Archaeology, Naval Dockyard Society and Lewisham Planning and a number of London amenity societies.

The Aedas masterplan – the routes and the real green public spaces

Identical to the Aedas master plan, the Farrell’s masterplan again proposes the historic structures such as the GII listed Olympia Building and the Double Dry Dock remain as marooned stand-alone features amongst the Aedas typology of monolithic blocks. So what does this newly promised “from the ground up” Farrell’s masterplan deliver that the rejected Aedas masterplan did not?

The Farrells masterplan – routes and public spaces

Are the extant Tudor routes through the site expressed in the masterplan? Not yet, rather Farrells have opted to import a circulation feature of “one route back” from the river that has never been a feature of this enclosed self-contained site. What the Farrell’s monolithic gesture of “one route back” achieves is a cutting through of the extant Tudor routes, ignoring the historic perpendicular circulation to the river with pedestrian bridges crossing the potential open mouths of the dock, slips, basin and mast ponds – in favour of an imported notion. Rather than the circulation through the site being informed by the site’s own history and character, specific and characteristic to this internationally important historic site, Farrell’s have opted to impose an idea from elsewhere.

The expression of the historic dockyard structures in the Farrell’s masterplan is limited to an indication of a single slipway illustrated as a green space and the dry dock also illustrated as a green space. This decision to landscape these features does not reflect the historic maritime character of the site. Where, in the former dockyard basin for instance, there might be historic tall ships, a marina, a sailing centre, moored restaurant barges or a floating swimming pool, Farrell’s have proposed – exactly as Aedas did – that the basin is rendered as a dull hard landscaped 'town square feature' fronting the proposed Olympia building shopping centre, described by Sir Terry as the "heart" of the site. The question as to how a shopping centre purposefully reflects the history of London's most important maritime and shipbuilding centre remains unanswered.

When Farrell’s publicly claim that the archaeology and historic features have informed their designs to develop a masterplan from the ground up, it appears that in order to achieve three tower blocks of 48, 38 and 38 storeys, surrounded by monumental blocks of 12 storeys, the precise location for the massive extent of piling required to support this masterplan is determined by the ‘archaeology’. What is the effect of this masterplan on the archaeology? According to Museum of London reports, the effect of this masterplan on the archaeology is "severe". Preservation in situ means that the potential harm to the historic dockyard structures will go unmonitored and unnoticed.

Farrells masterplan overlaid on historic dockyard structures and Sayes Court Garden

Sir Terry Farrell talks about the ‘memory’ of the extant historic dockyard structures being ‘reflected’ in the masterplan. Why do we need memory to be reflected when the structures themselves exist and no-one yet knows whether these structures can be revealed because expert assessment has yet to take place? For example, studies need to be carried out to determine whether the yellow stock brick and hardwood slipways can be revealed in the masterplan. As heritage consultants, Alan Baxters Associates have stated the masonry and brick openings in the river wall, such as the masonry Dry Dock entrance, may be sustainable as a revealed structure.

If Farrell’s public promise has any value, we will see more than the currently proposed preservation in situ of the entire historic environment of the dockyard and Sayes Court Garden.

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