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JAA proposes alternative plans to save London’s Brutalist Welbeck Street Car Park
United Kingdom Architecture News - Oct 27, 2017 - 11:40 15304 views
JAA's alternative scheme keeps the iconic brutalist car park as it is and adds extra three floors to the top of the building to meet the commercial needs, instead of demolishing the building completely.
JAA's plans show there is no difference between the existing car park and the new one. Image © JAA
"With a particular interest in all things 1960s and 1970s, including it’s architecture, JAA have always admired the pre-fab concrete facade of Welbeck Street carpark. It immediately stops you in your tracks and lifts the spirits when you dart off the horror of the main thoroughfare of Oxford Street on those occasions when you just have to venture there," said JAA.
"Like it or not, the facade is undeniably eye-catching and, even if not the earliest example of a 'Pop Art inspired' facade, it is certainly a rare architectural find in 2017, being one of the few examples to survive, in London at any rate."
JAA's section for alternative plans. Image © JAA
The Westminister Council had given a critical decision on the demolition of London’s brutalist Welbeck Street car park in August and the demolition of this brutalist-era car park has received a lot of reactions and comments from the public. Eric Parry Architects is currently working on the project to design a 10-storey hotel with a spa, restaurant and roof terrace, developed by Shiva Hotels with £100 million deal announced in 2016.
The iconic building, located on London’s Oxford Street, was originally designed by Michael Blampied and Partners in the 1960s (1968-70), the building was planned for local department store Debenhams.
London’s brutalist Welbeck Street car park has not yet been demolished. Image © Artur Salisz
At that time, Westminster Council’s planning regulations required such schemes to provide parking facilities, hence, a car park was commissioned behind the new shop and opposite the head offices, occupying a plot facing onto Welbeck Street, Henrietta Place and Marylebone Lane.
Following this critical decision, the majority of World Architecture Community readers asked that why couldn't it be converted to something else instead of demolishing the building. But, David Boothroyd, a committee member from the Westminster City Council, explained that the procedures on the planning applications for London show this wouldn't be the case that has to be considered for this project.
JAA keeps the existing facade pattern and adds extra three floors to the top of the building. Image © JAA
"If people want the car park preserved, it might have been an idea to object to the planning application before it came to be decided by the planning committee, rather than protesting after the committee made a decision," added David Boothroyd.
"The right of appeal of planning decisions is one-sided: someone who applies for planning permission and is refused can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, but there is no right of appeal if someone objects to a planning permission and the committee grants it."
"The only way to stop a planning permission which has been granted by a committee is through a Judicial Review court case, in which the opponents have to prove that the process followed was unfair or wrong (not that the decision ought to be reversed)," detailed David Boothroyd.
JAA's forms a extra high space half way up the existing facade. Image © JAA
After many discussions on this controversial scheme, JAA's new alternative design shows that the emblematic building can still be adapted to any program by preserving the building's diamond-patterned facade made up from prefabricated concrete.
In the new proposal, JAA repurposes the building by repositioning the floor levels and inserts the hotel behind the existing facade. The extra added 4th floor is planned to serve a restaurant and bar space of the hotel.
JAA's mass diagram. Image © JAA
"In order to make the scheme more comparable with the commercial ambitions of the approved scheme, three new floors have been added to the top of the building, set back from the existing facade so as not to undermine the grandeur of the original facade, and borrowing from it’s rhythm with regards to window apertures and materiality," said JAA.
"The subdivision behind the facade has been dealt with by infilling the lower triangles, between the diamond frames, with a dark metal facetted panel. It is the infilling of this area that allows the positioning of new dividing walls as well as any new air inlet/outlet for the bedrooms. The remaining larger openings would be glazed to allow an interesting framed view out to the surrounding city," added the studio.
JAA's proposal for ground floor plan. Image © JAA
"It is also worth considering that the existing facade perfectly suits the hotel aesthetic. There is a certain ‘quirk’ of staying in an old car park, which could have mass appeal beyond Peckham or Shoreditch; as with all things, it just needs to be marketed in the right way. An old car park? Perhaps. Or, an old carpark with interiors of Don Draper’s apartment in Mad Men, a bar from a Connery-era Bond, and a concrete facade befitting an LA-cool episode of Columbo from 1971? Old hat to some, perhaps, but the epitome of chic to others."
But, World Architecture Community should clearly state that JAA's alternative proposal has not been submitted to the The Westminister Council to be evaluated in consideration of not demolishing the building.
"The council’s role is to decide whether a specific development scheme can be built. It isn’t to arbitrate between rival schemes. The planning committee cannot refuse planning permission on the grounds that it would prefer a different system," told David Boothroyd World Architecture Community.
"As of yet, only one redevelopment scheme for Welbeck Street Car Park has been submitted for planning which is the Eric Parry scheme for Marylebone Lane LP. The planning permission has not yet been issued as there are some associated agreements with the council which have to be negotiated."
"If you want to put forward the alternative scheme, then the organisation to convince is not the council but the owner of the building - they must decide what they want to do with it," added Boothroyd.
JAA's proposal for upper floor plans. Image © JAA
The Westminster Council and Historic England denied the building's listed heritage status earlier this year for "not meeting the very high bar for listing buildings of this date".
"In 2015 English Heritage decided that the Car Park was not historic or distinctive enough to be Listed. Even if the planning committee had wanted to keep the Car Park, it could not have prevented it being demolished," had explained David Boothroyd, a committee member from the Westminster City Council.
"Even if the car park had been in a Conservation Area, the government's National Planning Policy Framework says that planning authorities have to balance any harm done to heritage assets against the desirability of the development. In other words, showing that an area would be harmed by demolishing a building doesn't in itself mean the demolition can be stopped," he added.
Top image © Theo Simpson
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