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Chiswick Curve architect defends his design

By Bridget Osborne

Chiswick Curve architect defends his design 26 June 2018

The Public Inquiry into the proposed Curve development at Chiswick roundabout continues this week with the developers Starbones submitting their evidence.

The architect Christopher Egret is expected to speak this morning. A member of the Royal Institute of British Architects since 1993 and a teacher at the London School for Architecture, he has been part of the design team for such notable buildings as the Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong, the Maison de la Culture du Japon in Paris and the Peckham Library, which won the Stirling Prize in 2000.

His track record as an architect is that he delivers ‘unique and remarkable’ buildings. ‘London’ he says, ‘is a growing city, and new designs need to be celebrated like new children in a family. The skyline will be altered, new vistas will arrive’. He is expected to argue that the reason for choosing a curved design is that curves ‘soften a building’s massing and offer a response to the movement of the sun that is gradual and ever changing’.

‘Narcissistic bling’

Last week Barbara Weiss of the Skyline Campaign, criticised the Chiswick Curve design as part of a genre of ‘narcissistic … bling.’

She is also an architect, who has been member of the Royal Institute of British Architects since 1985, and worked on projects relating to the design and construction of Tall Buildings, including the Pittsburgh Plate Glass HQ and 101 California in S. Francisco. She founded her own architects practice in 1987 – Barbara Weiss Architects, ‘an award-winning practice that is well respected for its high quality, highly bespoke design’ – which focuses mainly on residential buildings.

She has known Christopher Egret since 1980 and describes him as a ‘personal friend’ but that didn’t stop her telling the Inquiry: ‘the form, proportion, scale and character of the Chiswick Curve are in jarring contrast with the architectural identity typical of this part of West London. Clearly, the Chiswick Curve has been designed by its architects with the intention to create the greatest possible stylistic chasm between it and the prevailing historic character of the surrounding context’. While accepting that contrast is often a good thing in architecture, she said in this case it would be ‘hugely insensitive, disruptive and distracting’.

Barbara Weiss told the Inquiry a building such as the Curve promoted the ‘object’ rather than the ‘city’ as a whole and in pursuing this trend: ‘we are promoting isolated and isolating buildings, images of selfishness, greed and everything that is temporary, short-lived, and does not require commitment or meaningful social interaction’.

A recipe for mental health problems

Local residents’ groups also described the idea of living on a roundabout with no outside space – communal ‘winter gardens’ (ie. enclosed) rather than individual balconies to the flats and no space to relax in the immediate vicinity of the building as ‘isolating’ and depressing and likely to have a negative impact on the Curve residents’ mental health. They argue that a motorway roundabout is just not a suitable place for people to live, as residents would have to cross several lanes of traffic every time they went out in order to get anywhere and the nearest public space, the River Thames or Gunnersbury Park would be quite a hike.

They also argue that the volume of people crossing the road will slow down traffic on the roundabout, where there is regular gridlock already, and that it will make the rush hour overcrowding at Gunnersbury tube station and Kew overground station even worse than it already is.

For a full report on the week’s proceedings click here

Go and watch the proceedings

The Inquiry is open to the public to watch the proceedings and the local residents groups taking part would welcome support. You can sign up here to an attendance rota on The Chiswick Calendar website which will give them an indication of how many are attending on each day (but we won’t give your name). Or you can just turn up at Brentford Free Church, Boston Manor Rd, Brentford TW8 8DW. Proceedings start at 10.00am but you can wander in and sit down in the public seating area at any point during the day. The Inquiry is expected to run Tuesday – Friday until Wednesday 4 July.