diamond geezer

 Thursday, February 04, 2010

Some of my favourite places in London are leftover forgotten backwaters, under threat of disappearance but not yet vanished. Places like the Bow Back Rivers before the Olympic Stadium landed, or the summit of the disused ski-slope at Beckton Alp. And places like the exterior of the Millennium Dome, now all sponsored and flashy inside but still part-abandoned and overlooked outside. Alas, not for much longer.

Here's how walking round the Dome used to be (and still pretty much is), according to a Time Out article I wrote three years ago...
zero degreesSoon, through the buddleia, comes a first glimpse inside the grounds of the old Dome proper. Here, across a forlorn fenced-off piazza, the Greenwich Meridian slices through the farthest edge of the Millennium site. The zero degree line was marked in 2000 by a red laser emerging beneath a giant mirror set in a green "Living Wall". But the red light has long been turned off, the mirror reflects little but grime and the dead wall is slowly becoming a weatherbeaten pile of concrete slabs. No longer can visitors stand beside "Kodak Photo Point 18" to take cherished souvenir snapshots (nor, I suspect, did they ever bother). Four metal meridian lines remain, for the time being at least, edged by inspirational international poems etched in granite. Had the government awarded its super-casino licence to the Dome's new owners, the whole of this derelict area would have been wiped away by an ugly multi-storey hotel complex. For now, however, this ground level millennial folly survives.
The O2's casino still may be dead in the water, but it seems this semi-derelict corner of the Greenwich Peninsula is about to be redeveloped. Planning documents have recently been submitted to Greenwich Council [spotted by Greenwich.co.uk], and the long-feared hotel is coming. It's due to be erected to the west of the Dome, on the Thames foreshore facing Canary Wharf, out in the badlands where hundreds of thousands of arena-worshippers never venture. That's precisely where my photo above was taken. The development will comprise "a 452-key Hotel in a building of varying heights" and include "a 3,000m2 ballroom and a 427m2 health spa", while immediately alongside there'll be "100 units of serviced residential apartments in a 24-storey tower". Somewhere expensive to stay overnight after a late Bon Jovi gig, or somewhere expensive to live with excellent views of the Thames and Docklands. It'll undoubtedly be a huge commercial success, but I don't think I'll be moving in.

Dome HotelThere are a heck of a lot of planning documents, which only the most diligent citizen would have the patience to unravel and digest. I had a look at a few, including what appears to be the main environmental proposal (big pdf) the site history & masterplan and precise maps of the existing and future sites. It appears that the 'Living Wall' will have to be demolished, as will the Greenwich Pavilion that's been used for mothballed storage for the last nine years. They'll also be building on top of a "redundant" reed bed, installed with much fanfare to recycle the Dome's greywater back in 2000 (so much for sustainability). But I'm (greatly) relieved to see that the hotel complex won't be encroaching right up to the river, which means that the Greenwich Meridian line will remain clear of any buildings - within a proposed public space.

However, it's the visual impact of this major development which most concerns me. You may not be a great fan of the Dome, but you can't deny that its upturned bowl and spiky yellow crown have great presence. The view is currently unimpeded from across the river, including from the top of Canary Wharf's greatest skyscrapers, but all this will change if/when the hotel and residential tower go in. Here, for example, are a couple of the proposed skyscraper-filled views (big pdf). Underneath each I've added the official visual impact of construction, as outlined in the Environmental Plan. Don't laugh.
Dome Hotel
View 02B: View from the North at East India Dock Basin
The proposed Hotel buildings to the right (west) would step up in height towards the O2 and would provide it with a formal counterpoint, their height and vertical punctuation acting as a point of conclusion at the tip of the Peninsula. The Hotel would articulate the skyline along the western shore of the Peninsula and would appear commensurate in scale with the consented development at Peninsula Quays further south.
Significance of Potential Impact: Beneficial, having a moderate impact locally.
Dome Hotel
View 04A: View from Manchester Road Lift Bridge
The proposed Hotel buildings would step up away from The O2 leaving its distinctive crown and distinctive curve mostly visible from here. The key components of the consented Peninsula Quays directly opposite, and the shoreline development adjacent would draw the eye southward from The O2. The height of the proposed Development would be appropriate to the width of the River and the expanse of water accentuated by the foreground inlet. The scale and articulation of the shoreline would add quality to the visual character of the Peninsula.
Significance of Potential Impact: Beneficial, having a moderate impact locally.
Sorry, but there's no way that either of these are "beneficial" impacts on the view, not unless someone's been paid a backhander to write the assessment. There's additional drivel elsewhere, including "it would add visual interest to the new skyline and enhance its legibility" and the stupendous "the scale and massing of the overall composition and its impact on the skyline would be pleasing to the eye and appropriate to the scale of the Peninsula and River by day, and would contribute to the animation of the water reflections at dusk and night." Creative Writing graduates take heart - there is work out there in the shadowy world of commercial bureaucratic prostitution.

And yet, the planners have a point. The Dome's been pretty much alone on the Greenwich peninsula for most of the last ten years, and only recently have tall buildings started to encroach on its southern flank. That highrise forest is due to grow ever thicker over the next few years as most of the existing wasteland and car parking space is turned over to office and residential development. The view's already started to vanish, so this new hotel will only add to the skyline clutter (and heralds an ever greater eclipse to come). It's what happens when you build an underground station in the middle of a reclaimed gasworks - the new relentlessly edges out the old. Lovers of leftover forgotten backwaters should complain vigorously to Greenwich Council's planning department before the consultation deadline passes. Or (more sensibly) accept the inevitable and go take a walk around the back of the Dome while they still can, before all the millennial detritus is wiped clean away.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream