Renzo Piano draws fire for his latest London projects

Written by Staff Writer

Famed Italian architect Renzo Piano has revealed two new residential projects in the capital — a penthouse apartment complex and a beautiful extension of the Bishopsgate Crossrail station. The striking project is a shining symbol of a decades-long vision to redevelop the city’s infrastructure.

The site, located on Cockenzie Road in Bond Street, was the site of the original Transcaffia plan for the Northern Line, a massive project that was conceived in the late 1960s and originally planned to stretch from Canary Wharf in the east to the city center in the west.

However, after Britain’s voters decided to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, work on the Transcaffia ceased and London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s approach to infrastructure development shifted focus from vast, public-private projects such as the Crossrail service to urban investment projects targeted at private investors.

That’s why, for the billion euro ($1.08 billion) Bishopsgate Crossrail extension, Piano and his company were picked to design and build a sleek, urban extension that would house a city within a city — with stunning access for cyclists and pedestrians. The result is an ultra-modern and distinctly European design — but will it all pay off?

Transformation

Longtime London insider and culture reporter Patrick Watson says the latest transformation is a bold move that could transform the area into a major cultural center. “It is a one-of-a-kind architectural work and a bold urban investment and there are few buildings as nimble and ambitious or capital intensive as this — but can it make financial sense?” he asks.

“It is a big gamble and has massive costs, but if it gets the planning permission in the first place, the City of London and London Borough of Westminster are both known to support the idea.”

“They are seriously working at this, at this time of massive uncertainty for the whole sector and it would be very good to have such a landmark on the block,” Watson adds.

Kean University in Dublin is also attempting to capture this investor and public interest in Europe’s first completely electric metro network. © WOFCORD/ICE

However, it’s not just a Bishopsgate Crossrail station project that is gaining renewed interest from Londoners. The city’s highly-discussed development of a “youth and sports city” near the Olympic Park in East London, funded in part by the regeneration agency New London Architecture, is causing a stir. “Some are saying that this is what the London that they were always hoping for,” Watson says.

“One of my personal favorites is that of Eva Jiricna, who designed a big glass pavilion shaped like a London bus. I think that it is a very public eye-popping addition to the reworked parts of the garden that they have included here.

“There is a close intersection between visual, civic and market aspects to these projects and it is a great sign that London is beginning to shed its restrictive corporate mindset in favor of bold public investment,” he concludes.

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