Knight Dragon unveils new 1.4 million sq ft project - the first building in the UK to be designed by international architect Santiago Calatrava - at the heart of its transformation of Greenwich Peninsula
The angle most news outlets took was 'tube station to be renamed', whereas in fact something far more significant is going on.
Peninsula Place is a new 1.4 million sq ft landmark for London, designed by architect, engineer and artist Santiago Calatrava and set to transform Greenwich Peninsula.
It's to be built on the site of the existing tube and bus station at North Greenwich, and presumably a fair chunk of the surrounding land as well, maybe including some of the bleak piazza you walk through to reach the O2.
Residents and visitors to the Peninsula will arrive from the tube into an 80ft high winter garden and glass galleria.
That makes it sound like most of the tube station beneath ground level won't be changing much, other than to add some more impressive entrances and improve accessibility. I'm anticipating something like the recent revamp of Birmingham New Street, but with a lot more plants on top.
The scheme will include a new tube and bus station, theatre, cinema, performance venue, bars, shops and wellbeing hub.
Yes, of course there'll be shops. The current retail offering around the Dome is pretty lacklustre, unless you like restaurants, so this is an opportunity to create far more of a buzz. Also, a lot of people will be living on the peninsula soon, and they'll need something better than a coffee kiosk and a Tesco Express. As for the 'wellness hub', sigh, that's a clear sign that those with cash to squander will be welcomed here.
Above this will rise three towers of workspaces, apartments and hotels...
It's taken four sentences to get round to it, but there's the first mention of flats. Because that's what this really is, a housing development at the most expensive point on the Greenwich peninsula. More particularly, it's the transformation of an award-winning station building that's mostly air and roof into three towers of prime 30-storey real estate. This might fill TfL's coffers with a lot of cash.
...all connected to the Thames by a stunning new land bridge.
At present the link to the Thames is a poorly signposted pathway past a building site up a hotel access road, so any improvement ought to be welcome. It's not entirely clear what the land bridge will be passing over, but apparently there'll be a public park by the riverside at the far end.
Its elements form part of one design family, creating a series of distinctive linked structures.
If you're an architect, why not cut and paste that sentence and use it as part of all the design and access statements you release in the future?
THE WINTER GARDEN
Visitors will emerge from the tube into the 80ft high winter garden, an urban forest that sits beneath a glass cupola, which floods the space with natural light and unfolds to let in the air and the weather. Above, three towers gradually step back to reveal a series of green terraces.
Sounds artificially lovely. Most importantly, however, the stepped terraces mean that residents on all floors will have excellent views of the central garden, upping the price of each flat and the overall value of the package. Well played Santiago.
The 500ft long galleria features a repetitive arboreal structure; slender columns form an “avenue of trees”, their detailed branch-like crowns connecting to support the glass canopy. This vaulting arcade creates a promenade of pavement cafes, shops and restaurants.
Although trees are mentioned a lot here, this is just a posh way of describing the shopping mall. The artist's impressions in the press pack suggest it might be a triple decker affair wrapped around the interior of the building, but it's hard to be sure. Has anybody managed to uncover the planning documents for this development, because I couldn't locate them on the Greenwich borough portal?
A new foot bridge links the galleria to a public park on the Thames. Here the mast and cables create a giant sundial sitting on the prime meridian line.
Oh hurrah. Ever since the Millennium Experience was mothballed, the meridian has been a vastly underplayed aspect of the North Greenwich peninsula. If this new bridge manages to reignite the meridian's presence, especially with underlying chronological inspiration, that could be rather wonderful.
“The model for us was London itself; to catch a bit of the city, the passage, the small discoveries that make London picturesque."
Yeah, enough already.
But it’s also a place meet for the first time. To say a goodbye. To watch your kids being silly in the sunlight. As Calatrava says, ‘it’s built around emotion’.
No really, you're embarrassing yourself now. And you've missed a word out.
As for renaming the tube station, I haven't found that in any press release, but journalists who went to the press launch are reporting so.
In 2023 things will be very different in North Greenwich. Visitors to the area will emerge from the Jubilee line into a lofty winter garden, replete with slim columns, foliage, bars and restaurants. The station will also have been renamed Greenwich Peninsula.
It's quite hard to get a tube station permanently renamed these days, and only far-Eastern building developers seem to manage it. The end of the Northern line extension will be Battersea Power Station station to keep a Malaysian consortium happy, and now Knight Dragon have managed to morph North Greenwich into Greenwich Peninsula.
Poor old The O2, which for a number of years managed to shoehorn the name of the world's largest entertainment venue onto the tube map, but has now been trumped by a housing development. Maybe this is why the southern end of the cablecar was never named Emirates North Greenwich, but was ahead of the curve with Emirates Greenwich Peninsula. Whatever, I'm not sure I like the mouthy six-syllableness of the tube station's intended name.
But there you have it, the relentless evolution of a former gasworks into a forest of densely-packed high rise flats continues. And twenty-five years after the Millennium Dome was erected, we might finally get a glass structure to outrank it.