Architectural follies (pt 286)

The Paddington Pole may be history, but there’s another monstrosity on the way. Simon Jenkins uncovers a new threat to the London skyline.

Eager to dress it up as “art”, [Renzo] Piano is quoted in the Architects’ Journal mouthing the usual architect’s tosh: about it being “a clear floating cube levitating above the ground … obsessed with lightness … defying the laws of gravity … crystalline, like a fine lace of steel and glass”. It is, he declares, “like the beautiful arches and skylights of Brunel’s Paddington station” next door.

This is garbage. For Piano to compare his work with Brunel’s masterpiece is comparing a chicken shed with St Paul’s. Brunel was a master of space and style, and designed Paddington as a secular church. His Paddington west- side wall was designed to merge into the surrounding terraces of Bayswater. Piano’s glass merges with nothing but a balance sheet. It might be in Victoria Street or Euston Road. He is merely shoving up 38,000 square feet of office space on the most floors he thinks he can get away with. He let his computer design the box and went out for lunch.

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