Designer describes scheme as “empty, cynical and vacuous” and calls for design to be scrapped
Designer Thomas Heatherwick has made an outspoken attack on the Royal Mail’s planned redevelopment of its Mount Pleasant sorting office in London.
The designer has thrown his weight behind a local campaign to stop the scheme designed by AHMM, Allies & Morrison, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Wilkinson Eyre.
The Royal Mail is proposing to build homes, shops, offices, restaurants and public space on half of the site currently occupied by its Mount Pleasant sorting office in Farringdon.
The remaining half will continue as a postal sorting office employing up to 3,000 people.
Boris Johnson called in the planning application for review last month, after the client fell into disagreement with Islington and Camden councils, the local planning authorities.
Now in a letter to the two local authorities involved, Heatherwick has branded the proposals “empty, cynical and vacuous” and “downright lazy” and insisted London could do better.
He called for a replacement scheme that could serve as an “exemplar of innovation and good urban design”, that was a model of good practice in the design of public realm, and that was grounded in the site’s history and community.
The Mount Pleasant proposals made national headlines after Royal Mail appealed directly to the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to intervene because it said the planning authorities – Camden and Islington – were dragging their heels.
Johnson agreed, prompting local Labour MP Emily Thornberry to extract a promise from David Cameron to look at the case.
Heatherwick’s strongly worded objection was posted on the website of community campaign group Mount Pleasant Forum.
In it he says: “I have no objection to either the development of this site or to a high-density solution, but this proposal is downright lazy – cheap, bland, generic and misconceived.
“London is the thought-leading capital of the world and this precious site sits in a prominent position near its heart.
“As the designer of the New Bus for London and co-originator of the current proposal to build a Garden Bridge across the Thames, I am personally engaged in the strategic effort to create a better public realm for this city. In this capacity and as a local resident and employer, I believe London can and must do better than this.”
He signs off saying: “The developer is going to make a vast amount of money from this project, but what is being offered in return is empty, cynical and vacuous… I implore you to listen to local people and reject this shoddy proposal.”