21:30

The Chelsea Barracks Site

With the Chelsea Flower show in full sail, attention was rightly focused on the other side of Lower Sloane street from the former Chelsea Barracks. It also, rightly, reminds us what an important site it is and why what is built there must live easily with the Royal Hospital.

It was a close thing. Thanks to Prince Charles, Richard Rogers was prevented from imposing yet another carbuncle on London. Surely One Hyde Park, with all the architectural sensitivity of a car crash, is warning enough as to what damage he might have done on an infinitely more sensitive site. Having said that, Prince Charles’s alternative of Quinlan Terry was almost as bad in the other direction - with a proposal that might have done a Regency workhouse justice. Terry is a wonderful domestic scale classicist – but surely out of his depth on this scale.

It will be interesting to see what finally comes out. For me, the best idea for this site came from very talented developer friend. His suggestion was to keep the mass of the site as gardens and put two bold and imaginative towers along the southern end of the site, counterpointing the Battersea Powerstation on the other side of the river. Someone like I M Pei would have the sense of beauty of form to do it. Instead of fighting to overbuild the site, this would have given the Hospital room to breathe and give something exceptional to the skyline. It won’t happen – but it’s a shame.
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