Stratford Waterfront will be exceptional, says John Tuomey

The architects behind the £1.3bn Stratford Waterfront cultural quarter have come out fighting for the project after critics subjected it to a flurry of abuse.

Since the latest images were released last week, Ian Ritchie suggested the buildings were boring, the Times branded it “lamentably drab” and Simon Jenkins in the Standard called it “museum-land meets Thamesmead… a pastiche of 1960s brutalism”.

But John Tuomey and Bob Allies shrugged off the attacks from the “grumpy old men”, insisting that what will be built will be exceptional civic architecture.

Allies said: “These are strong but accommodating buildings that establish a real urban edge to the Olympic Park. They provide the community with an extraordinary new resource, and frame a sequence of dynamic public spaces overlooking the river. Each building has its own singular, identity but also, critically, forms part of a coherent group.

“It’s a shame the grumpy old men don’t like it, but it’s hardly designed for them.”

It’s a shame the grumpy old men don’t like it, but it’s hardly designed for them

Bob Allies

Tuomey told Building the criticism was surprising given that “the whole world is full of badly constructed poorly planned and haphazard development and this project is being set apart by its sense of civic purpose. For that reason it’s an exemplar”.

He praised the transparent way the project was procured, contrasting it with the “history of disappointment” for architects, with so many competitions coming to nothing.

“This was a publicly run competition with a clear result where the client is committed to carrying out the project and fulfilling their architectural aspirations which are for the public good,” he said. “What architect wouldn’t think that was a good thing?

“For us to be working with Allies & Morrison and Arquitecturia on a project combining public space and civic architecture, it’s the job of a lifetime. In our minds it’s a very special project.”

He said they were designing buildings that they expected to last well over a century.

“I am excited about what we have on our drawing boards at the moment,” he said. “We are living it, building models, making drawings, making comparisons and going to see comparable institutions all around the world. We have a high ambition for the architecture, presence and significance of these buildings.

It’s the job of a lifetime. In our minds it’s a very special project

John Tuomey

“We are always looking for a radical archaic: something that if you imagine yourself standing in the future looking back you would judge it as having been the right thing to do at the time.”

O’Donnell & Tuomey – which won the RIBA Gold Medal last year – is responsible for the V&A East and Sadler’s Wells. Tuomey predicted the two buildings’ foyers would spill into the space in between, becoming as well used as the foyers on the South Bank.

Allies & Morrison is masterplanner and designer of the two residential towers, the London College of Fashion and the ex-Smithsonian, while YAYA winner Arquitecturia is designing a bridge over Carpenters Road.