Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The 'Skylight' - The Age of Quirky?

Bartholomew Square from the south-east

With proposed 'Skylight' 

Moshimo's planning application BH2016/03008 details a highly innovative extension to its Bartholomew Square ground-level premises. However the site is within the Old Town Conservation Area and this may have been the main reason that  the city's Conservation Advisory Group recommended refusal of the application. In spite of this the plans have now been approved by the Chairwoman of the Planning Committee. This has provoked much concern amongst the City's conservation/amenity societies.

Yet the proposals are for a superimposed,  essentially transient structure which requires no visible alterations to the bland 1980s buildings on which it sits. Whether its presence enhances or detracts from those is a matter of trivial opinion.  It is certainly in striking contrast to the neighbouring Victorian Town Hall but standing in the best position to admire the frontage puts the Skylight behind the you. Nor will the Skylight be visible from Market Street. Consultee Historic England considers the Skylight has the "potential to radically enhance and uplift Bartholomew Square by providing an exciting new attraction".


The 'Skylight' from the north-west

View now.
The most intrusive and potentially damaging view of the planned Skylight Restaurant is from the corner of Black Lion Street and Prince Albert Street as shown in the above visualisation. Being two-dimensional this view probably exaggerates the impact somewhat. The end of the Skylight is, in fact, set back from the Zizzi corner by about 55 metres. This spatial displacement would be immediately apparent to the passer-by in the street. Historic England acknowledges that views are kinetic and, as one passes along the street the Skylight quickly disappears again.  In fact the transient glimpse of the Skylight from Prince Albert Street will provide a dramatic dialogue between old and new and could result in a net enhancement of the streetscape. Another mitigating factor is that the 'box' is to be glazed and reflective of the sky. 

View into Bartholomew Square from Market Street.
The Skylight is hidden on the RH side.

Judging by the extraordinary changes in London's skyline over the last few decades it seems as if we are living in the Age of the Quirky. Perhaps we should determine to accept new developments that may bring benefits while, in the manner of an observation wheel, not entailing irreversible alterations to the existing architecture.

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