St Giles Court Development | The Plan
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St Giles Court Development

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

In 2001 RPBW was invited by Stanhope, the developers, to propose a masterplan for the Central St Giles site in Central London overlooked by Centrepoint, the striking landmark building by Richard Seifert dominating the district since 1966. Foster and Partners had also previously been invited to provide initial thoughts, but RPBW won the job because Stanhope wanted to do something different with the site, and Piano was thought to be the best architect to achieve this. Behind Centrepoint towards Covent Garden lurked an anonymous grey Ministry of Defence building, incongruous in this now creative part of central London. The hermetic, and congested 0.7 ha site intersecting Covent Garden, Bloomsbury and Soho needed a scheme to unlock and connect it. Pension fund managers Legal & General, the site’s owners (now together with Mitsubishi Estate Company) and developers Stanhope, wanted a mixed use development. Tongues have been wagging. Some feel it is over-scaled for its context, others find in the façade of the ten-floor building a too great similarity with the texture and vivid colours of LEGO bricks. Sceptics worry that other developers will use a related formula to get planning permission for “copy-cat” central London schemes. Central St Giles’ vibrancy was never going to please everyone, but amidst this bout of Anglo-Saxon architectural angst, it has won the full support of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. CABE’s Chief Executive, Paul Finch, describes it as “one of London’s great commercial buildings”, one that “sets the standards by which office architecture should be judged.” An incongruous mix of Mr Freedom’s Pop Art furniture shop, a pub favoured by Goths and a church and garden has populated the street past and present. The nearby building site of the Crossrail station and Denmark Street’s musical instrument shops spell cultural flux and expression. Local community organizations and English Heritage were consulted, and the team...

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