The CAMPAIGN to save a plucky east End landmark continues unabated, with national and international news coverage and more than 2,500 online signatures.
You can now object to the developer's crass proposal by filling in a form on the Tower Hamlets Council Planning Department website, and I urge you to take a minute out of your busy day to do just that. We need your support! We need names! To object to this thoughtless, wholly inappropriate and lazy scheme CLICK HERE.
The development company behind this plan, Resolution, has now filed proposals with Tower Hamlets Council Planning Department. There is a great deal of documentation, including the following statement from their architects, BuckleyGrayYeoman:
Recognises and contributes to the significance conservation area [sic], for future generations to admire; and
• Enhances the quality of the existing architecture, whilst maximising accessibility, functionality and sustainability
"Vision"? Mneh. And get a proof-reader, fellas.
Here's what else they have to say:
5.26 Whilst much time has been spent exploring options for the Spiegelhalters void, significant challenges have been raised by its unfortunate deterioration of the unit over the years. Today, only a portion of the facade remains precariously intact. The proposals seek to convert the void into a new main entrance for the building, providing a vibrant extension to the public realm and a celebratory homage to the history of the former Spiegelhalters. Although options to reinstate this façade have been explored, these have been considered to be unfeasible due to structural implications and financial viability.
All of which appears to be simply incompatible with the facts. The December 2014 report Structural Notes on the Front Elevation by Alan Baxter Associates is one of the documents submitted by the developers and one wonders whether they've taken the trouble to read it, because it states unambiguously:
Based on our observations, the façade is in reasonable structural condition for its age and we do not believe that the removal of the façade is necessary, structurally [...] The masonry is supported across the entire width of the building by a primary beam. From a distance, it was not possible to accurately confirm the condition of this beam. The feasibility of retaining the façade is, somewhat, reliant on the integrity of this beam as to replace it, whilst retaining the masonry, would be difficult. That said, we do not see anything to suggest the beam was in distress and needed to be replaced.
That seems pretty clear. The facade is in surprisingly good nick, the supporting beam seems to be doing the job for which it was designed and the remaining structure is (to use a word architects and planners seem to favour) viable. I know it's just a tatty shop front with nothing behind it apart from a century of indomitability - but that's the whole point of this campaign. It's worth preserving because it's awkward.
It won't get listed as a distinguished piece of architecture - because it isn't a distinguished piece of architecture, It's a run-downfacade that represents everything we used to value as a society and a community and it should remain as a permanent and heart-warming 'up yours' to bullying planners, developers and architects. It should make bureaucrats break out into a cold sweat. It should cheer the rest of us up, forever.
If the developers are worried about the 'difficulty' of incorporating the historic facade into their design, or the 'financial viability' of doing so, maybe they're in the wrong business. The 'unfortunate deterioration' is the result of deliberate negligence, by the way. There's nothing 'unfortunate' about taking the roof off and ripping out the interior.
(If you have time, you can read the complete report on the current condition of the Spiegelhalter facade:
If you're still reading this the chances are you work for Resolution, or BuckleyGrayYeoman, so here are two more points to ponder:
1. According to the Stepney Green Conservation Area Character Appraisal:
The loss of Wickham’s and Spiegelhalters would have a very detrimental impact upon the character of the conservation area and so the situation will be closely monitored.
The Spiegelhalter façade is integral to the development of Wickham’s and the appearance of the department store today cannot be understood without it. Deprived of the interpolation of the modest Spiegelhalter façade, the break in the monumental parade of columns becomes unintelligible. The Spiegelhalter façade should therefore be retained as an essential element of the Wickham’s elevation and its proportions and massing in relation to the Wickham’s building should be preserved.
Relationship to Spiegelhalter’s:
• The Spiegelhalter façade is integral to the development of Wickham’s and the appearance of the department store today cannot be understood without it. Deprived of the interpolation of the modest Spiegelhalter façade, the break in the monumental parade of columns becomes unintelligible. The Spiegelhalter façade should therefore be retained as an essential element of the Wickham’s elevation and its proportions and massing in relation to the Wickham’s building should be preserved.
• It should be noted that the original floorlevels of the Spiegelhalter building and Wickham’s Department Store do not correspond, meaning that any connection between the two would require a change in level.
• The potential exists to restore the Spiegelhalter building as an independent shop unit, which could provide additional floor space and revenue whilst maintaining the logic of the original construction.
2. The developer's Planning Statement (also available online) includes the following:
5.27 The proposed new entrance is of exceptional design quality and will include the highest quality materials to recognise and enhance this part of Mile End Road, as well as the wider Stepney Green Conservation Area. The proposed development better reveals the significance of the building with a sensitive and innovative approach to celebrating its rich history. Any negligible impact would certainly be outweighed by the significant benefits of the proposals, including creation of high quality flexible office space for SME’s, significant job creation and enabling the high quality restoration of the building.
Full marks for "negligible impact" as a euphemism for "total destruction of the site". You'll notice the complete lack of coherence in the argument - the 'significant benefits' (i.e. the creation of office space behind the Wickham's facade) have nothing to do with the proposed destruction of the Spiegelhalters facade. That an existing entrance and staircase are already available (and the Alan Baxter report recommends just such a solution) has not been considered by architects committed to the destruction of the historic facade, which CAN be restored and become a crowd-pulling architectural feature of the Mile End Road instead of a gimcrack gesture.
More on this to follow.
Meanwhile, please spread the word, support the campaign and follow this blog.
Message ends. Thank you.