CABE slams London 2012 media centre designs

The government's architecture watchdog has criticised the 'extremely weak' design of the £355m media centre for the London 2012 Olympic Games.The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) said it was unable to support the Olympic Delivery Authority's (ODA) proposed designs for the International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre which are located on the edge of the Olympic Park.

Construction of the media centre started last month. The twin buildings will house journalists during the Olympic Games and is expected to be turned into nearly 900,000 sq ft of office space after the Games are over.

CABE's design review panel is advising the ODA on the quality, sustainability and legacy of London 2012 proposals.

The panel said it had reviewed all of the key projects for the Games and in the majority of proposals praised 'the ODA's determination to deliver good design and a strong legacy.'

But it added that it had serious concerns with this project over the quality of architecture of both main buildings. It said the design for the IBC shows a 'paucity of imagination' and the panel believes it could even blight the Olympic Legacy. It said more work was also needed to improve the 'large monolithic block' of the MPC.

Architect RPS designed the International Broadcast Centre and Allies and Morrison designed the Main Press Centre.

CABE also said that the site had originally been 'conceived to operate in the legacy as a vibrant neighbourhood, the planning application shows that it will now operate under a business park model instead'.

It has asked the ODA to develop a new strategy to 'secure the necessary architectural quality to attract investors and provide the competitive edge which a business park in this location needs'.

The commission said that the building could even be a blight on East London's already ugly landscape.

Paul Finch, chair of the London 2012 design review panel, said: 'Unless there is a fundamental rethink, then people could be forgiven for wondering why sheds have been removed from the Lower Lea Valley in the name of high quality urban regeneration, only to be reinstated at a much larger scale. When we talk about poor architecture we are not just talking about style here. We mean identity and character, and scale and coherence, and the creation of a legacy which is appropriate to a site of this importance.'

Outline planning permission was granted in September 2007. The planning application for detailed design was submitted on 10 March 2009. A decision is due to be made on 9 June 2009. If the planning authority does give the scheme approval, then CABE urges it to be conditional approval upon improving the architectural quality of the scheme.

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