The slow rumbling plans to upgrade the massively overcrowded South Kensington tube station moved an inch forward last week, when local residents and workers were shown some of the plans. The exhibition focused on the aspect that will inevitably draw the most attention from residents — the above site development.
The upgrade to the station is desperately needed, but the cash is wanting, so some of the funding will come from redeveloping the land around the station, and even the modest plans shown last year have been scaled back in light of local opposition.
This is an area with a local of vocal people and the exhibition last week was filled with mutterings of people complaining about, well, everything it seemed.
In part, some of that is a desire that any changes to the station are architecturally sympathetic, but many of the overheard mutters were people complaining about anything other than a slavish copy/paste job of the buildings that already exist. The TfL reps were trying to explain, probably for the thousandth time, why that would be inappropriate for a station development.
The development is needed to fund the station upgrade, so the famous bullnose at the end of the station will be increased in size to allow for more space to be rented out. A currently empty strip of land on the south side will be built upon to provide more homes. A row of shops and houses will be demolished to remove the run-down backs, but the facade retained.
Many of these much loved buildings were in fact rather shabby developments by quick profiting developers who built cheaply and clad badly laid brick with plaster to hide the shoddy workmanship.
The architectural quandary is how to develop the new buildings, that can be both modern, but sufficiently bland that the planning applications can get past the complaints. Unlike previous shoddy developments, these wont be cheap buildings though, as the quality of finish will match what is being demanded by the demanding commentators, but it cannot be denied, they lack character.
Regrettably, a truly outstanding landmark development is all but impossible in this part of town as it’d face far too much opposition from the stucco salvation societies. Your correspondent would have probably replaced the bullnose with an uncompromisingly brutalist concrete structure – a standout landmark for the area. It’s probably just as well he isn’t in charge.
TfL expects to submit its own plans to the council for approval in the spring.