Developer St Modwen in negotiations over two 40-storey skyscrapers for deprived south London borough

Architect Ken Yeang is in talks with developer St Modwen to design two 40-storey towers on the site of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre in south London.

The developer, which is seeking a signature architect to head at least £300m of work on the site, recently met Yeang in Kuwait to discuss reprising his celebrated “ecotower” design for the site.

The 35-storey tower, which drew on Yeang’s experience in designing ecologically sustainable skyscrapers, was one of the keynote buildings of Norman Foster’s stalled masterplan for the site two years ago.

St Modwen has already appointed American practice Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as its “foundation architect”, working on the realignment of the road and other infrastructure matters. After the completion of this work it will appoint an architect to design the towers.

Other practices that appear to be in the frame include Make, which has already won the second phase of the masterplan, and Foster and Partners itself. However, Yeang’s firm TR Hamzah & Yeang could be favoured because Southwark council gives sustainability a high priority in its planning guidance to developers.

Colin McQueston, St Modwen’s asset manager, said the developer was looking for an architect with an international reputation.

He said: “There is an opportunity for a signature architect, such as the likes of Ken Yeang, to design two 40-storey towers. Sustainability is high on our agenda, and even higher on Southwark’s.”

St Modwen could appoint a separate architect for each tower, McQueston added. St Modwen owns the site but it would have to enter a developer competition run by the council to become its partner in

the construction of the shopping centre site.

There is an opportunity for a signature architect, such as Ken Yeang

Colin McQueston, St Modwen

Yeang’s previous design for Elephant & Castle four years ago contained a 35-storey building and two 12-storey towers, all of which used cutting-edge sustainable design. Many features of the planned towers used low-energy design without any electrical or mechanical systems.

It is understood that Yeang

would be expected to come up with a fresh design for the towers. They could resemble his design for a

125 m tower in Zurich, which is currently part of a design competition.

The design, which uses plants to create a “vegewall” and a system of vents running the length of the building, is billed as the greenest building in the world.

n Yeang has been asked to extend his work around the 43-storey

Al-Ghofa tower in Kuwait City.

The Al-Safat Corporation has asked TR Hamzah & Yeang to masterplan an area of 15 acres, creating the potential for two further tall buildings and a shopping centre.

An elephant on a roller-coaster

  • July 1999: The area is voted one of London's six worst eyesores. A major bidding war ensues to revamp the area

  • July 2000: The Southwark Land Regeneration consortium (including Foster and Partners and Ken Yeang) wins the bidding war with plan to demolish the lurid pink shopping centre

  • June 2002: The bid collapses because of funding difficulties
  • January 2003: Regeneration plans relaunched with Southwark council’s framework document

  • June 2004: Architect Make, including John Prevc, formerly Foster and Partners’ Elephant & Castle expert, is brought in to refine the masterplan