One of London’s ugliest building is undergoing refurbishment, but many people would probably have preferred it to be demolished. Built in 1966 for property developers Ronald Lyon Holdings, the former Brown and Root Tower in Colliers Wood was voted in 2006 as London’s most hated building with 52% of the votes (Centre Point, by contrast was fifth with only 6% of the votes) and, in 2008, a Channel 4 poll named the tower in the top 10 of buildings the British public would most like to see demolished.
Centre Point is quite rightly now being refurbished; the tower in Colliers Wood has sat empty for several years; many would have hoped for its demolition, but it is now itself being refurbished and converted from offices to 150 apartments, with shops on the ground floor, with a future extension to the south providing another 68 apartments. Controversially, the affordable housing component seems have been to have been dispensed with for economic reasons.
It is claimed that because the building sits on top of the Northern tube line, demolition would have been too complicated and expensive. Sadly, planning legislation allows for protection of historic and important buildings, but not for demolition of ugly ones….. nature and property economics must take its course.
Over the past few years the lower floors have been boarded up and green netting at the ends has caught falling debris. Samples of new modern glass cladding have been fitted which are a great improvement on the old black concrete cladding. but, at the end of the day, the proportions are ungainly. Will the new elevations change the basic ugly proportions of the block? Refurbishment is now in place with completion of the first phase anticipated late 2015/early 2016.
It is a difficult urban site, surrounded by roads and shopping centres. Key to the success of the project will be how the developers Criterion Capital deal with the public space around the building and give it a high quality identity and setting – a sense of place. Otherwise, there is a danger that the same building emerges, albeit with glass instead of concrete cladding.