Landmarks: Hammersmith

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The Independent Culture
Remembering that London's winter light levels are sometimes only 10 per cent of summer brightness, it is not surprising that you often have a dull feeling arriving along the M4 from Heathrow. But this is exacerbated by the extraordinarily drab, dull brown architecture shadowing the route into the City. I'm referring to Hammersmith, of course. It's not just the dreary design of the buildings - it's the lack of quality human spaces at ground level and lack of good landscaping on the route.

Hammersmith lost the opportunity of building Sir Norman Foster's Public Park in the 1980s. Instead Bredero put up this building called Centre West which houses Coca-Cola's headquarters. What on earth went wrong? It is one of the worst buildings in London. They missed out on Foster's light, transparent approach. It is a disastrous environment for pedestrians and the top of the building looks like a crematorium. The sickly brown colour is typical of Hammersmith's recent buildings. They seem to have this idea that brown is beautiful. It will be a destructive landmark for years to come.

The problem is that we are not actually acknowledging its importance as the front door of London. People are always going on about the area around St Paul's but everyone, even the Queen, uses this route - it is of national significance. In the 18th century, parks and avenues ensured that the route was as much a part of the architecture as the building itself. If cities like Dallas or Perth can produce light, shining buildings, why can't we provide architecture which makes incoming visitors feel that London is an exciting place to be?

Richard Horden works in Golden Square, London. Recent projects include the Queen's Stand, Epsom and the Glasgow Wing Tower

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