Urban Visions

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Behind tarpaulin and scaffolding a new Britain is being built. The country's leading architects are busy recreating our cities in ways that almost defy categorisation - and all in time for the millennium. Now, in an exclusive extract from Peter Murray and MaryAnne Stevens's forthcoming book 'New Urban Environments', we review the futuristic designs that will become the monuments of our age

RICHARD ROGERS PARTNERSHIP

Millennium Experience, Greenwich, London

After a national competition in February 1996, the Millennium Commission selected Greenwich to be

the home for the National Millennium Experience. Occupied by a former gasworks, the 181-acre site had been derelict for over two decades, and is the largest undeveloped area on the Thames. The land was sold by British Gas to English Partnership, a government regeneration body which appointed the Richard Rogers Partnership to draw up a plan for the whole of the 300-acre peninsula, including the development of 5,000 houses and a business district. The centrepiece is to be the Millennium Dome, which will have a circumference of one kilometre and a ground floor of over 80,000sq m, making it the biggest building of this type in the world. The Millennium Experience will run for at least a year, but the building could last for decades. Proposals for the dome's later use have been discussed; suggestions include a sports venue or a conference hall. The departure of the British Library from the central inner courtyard and the domed Reading Room of the British Museum (pictured above) has provided an opportunity to reuse this space. The Great Court will be enclosed with a lightweight, glazed roof and entered from the main level of the museum. The museum's Centre for Education and new ethnographic galleries will be located beneath this level. Bookshops, restaurants and cafes will be on level two and mezzanine levels above. These mezzanines, elliptical in plan, are centred around the Reading Room. A pair of grand staircases, which form a processional route linking the court to the upper galleries of the museum, encircle the restored drum of the Reading Room. The original facades of the courtyard will be restored and the southern portico reinstated. When it is completed, the new space, with its light-transmitting roof, will complement the 19th-century architecture of the museum.

FOSTER AND PARTNERS

Millennium Bridge, London

The Millennium Bridge will be London's first new river-crossing for over a century and the capital's first pedestrian-only bridge. It will link two of the city's most significant public spaces and buildings - St Paul's Cathedral to the north and, to the south, the area around the Globe Theatre and forthcoming Tate Gallery of Modern Art. Undisturbed by vehicles and city noise, it should make a striking architectural landmark in its own right, opening up unique views of London, in particular of the cathedral.

FOSTER AND PARTNERS

British Museum Redevelopment, London

The departure of the British Library from the central inner courtyard and the domed Reading Room of the British Museum (pictured above) has provided an opportunity to reuse this space. The Great Court will be enclosed with a lightweight, glazed roof and entered from the main level of the museum. The museum's Centre for Education and new ethnographic galleries will be located beneath this level. Bookshops, restaurants and cafes will be on level two and mezzanine levels above. These mezzanines, elliptical in plan, are centred around the Reading Room. A pair of grand staircases, which form a processional route linking the court to the upper galleries of the museum, encircle the restored drum of the Reading Room. The original facades of the courtyard will be restored and the southern portico reinstated. When it is completed, the new space, with its light-transmitting roof, will complement the 19th-century architecture of the museum. FOSTER AND PARTNERS

Canary Wharf Station, London

Canary Wharf station is the largest on the new extension to the Jubilee Line. The design seeks to minimise the physical and visual impact of above-ground station structures by creating a park over it.

Two main passenger entrances are provided. Both take the form of large, glass-domed bubbles, glowing with light at night-time. Each spans 20m and is carefully integrated into the sloping grass banks at either end of the main station park, which will be Canary Wharf's principal public- recreation space.

The 250m-long station is being constructed within a reclaimed dock, and a total of 20 escalators descend from the entrances to platform levels. The ticket hall will be located within the station's cavern and the entire area will be clad in glass.

BRANSON COATES ARCHITECTURE

National Centre for Popular Music, Sheffield

Branson Coates likens its design for the National Centre for Popular Music to a jukebox, allowing people to select the events they want to attend. Situated in Sheffield's rapidly expanding cultural quarter, the scheme consists of four drums which will house the main elements of the exhibition programme in their upper storeys. These comprise an interactive exhibition gallery celebrating the history and development of popular music; a practical display area exploring the mechanics of how popular music is created; a sound arena where art and technology combine to make musical environments, as well as a gallery for temporary exhibitions.

DAVID MARKS JULIA BARFIELD ARCHTS

Weather-Watch Discovery Centre, Bracknell

The Weather-Watch Discovery Centre (below) has been designed as a focus for education, information and debate. It will provide a dramatic new symbol for Bracknell, home of the Meteorological Office.

The project consists of two key elements: an 80m-high stainless-steel tower containing "petals" of dichroic glass which respond to the natural rhythms of wind and light, and an interactive children's zone. The centre's highly reflective surface of stainless steel and glass provides excellent solar control which, combined with the shape of the interior, enables the building to be almost entirely naturally ventilated. A glass enclosure will allow visitors to look up at the ever-changing tower above.

FOSTER AND PARTNERS

Wembley Stadium, London

The design for a revamped national stadium at Wembley makes a special feature of the famous twin towers to form an impressive new gateway. Repositioning the towers has created extra space to allow the stadium to be spun round 90 with a north-south axis - this reduces the sun's glare for players. The shape of the seating bowl incorporates the idea of the "Wembley Wave" - a sweeping curve, flowing along the eastern and western sides, as the upper tier follows the external wall line. A retractable seating system will improve spectators' sightlines and leg-room.

The external skin will act as a giant projection screen to provide a wall of moving images for spectators in the square outside. The roof covers the entire stadium and has retractable panels which move to leave an opening extending beyond the playing areas. Its translucent material ensures that natural daylight extends throughout the stadium. NICHOLAS GRIMSHAW & PARTNERS

The Eden Project, St Austell, Cornwall

The Eden Project is designed as a showcase for global bio-diversity and human dependence upon plants. There will be 2.6 hectares of linked, climate- controlled transparent capsules (biomes), and a centre where visitors can experience the world of plants using micro- and time-lapse photography.

The biomes will encapsulate three key climatological regions: the rain forest, sub-tropics and Mediterranean temperate. The geometry of the building, incorporating a system of domes, enables a very lightweight structure of minimal surface and maximum volume to be created; this helps with fabrication, transportation and erection techniques.

RICHARD ROGERS PARTNERSHIP

The South Bank Cultural Development is one of Europe's largest cultural clusters, beautifully positioned on the Thames. The Royal Festival Hall, one of the first major post-war buildings in Britain, was later joined by a concert hall, a theatre and an exhibition gallery.

This design for revitalising the South Bank arts complex proposes an elegant, translucent canopy over the existing buildings, to turn the notoriously uninviting spaces into half-indoor/half-outdoor areas. The geometry of the roof was inspired by the angles of the neighbouring bridges and is a standardised steel structure, resembling a railway shed.

The South Bank Cultural Development is one of Europe's largest cultural clusters, beautifully positioned on the Thames. The Royal Festival Hall, one of the first major post-war buildings in Britain, was later joined by a concert hall, a theatre and an exhibition gallery.

This design for revitalising the South Bank arts complex proposes an elegant, translucent canopy over the existing buildings, to turn the notoriously uninviting spaces into half-indoor/half-outdoor areas. The geometry of the roof was inspired by the angles of the neighbouring bridges and is a standardised steel structure, resembling a railway shed.

MICHAEL HOPKINS AND PARTNERS

The New Parliamentary Building, London

The main purpose of the New Parliamentary Building is to provide offices for 210 MPs, but it will also accommodate a library, restaurant, landscaped conservatory with a bar, shops and a suite of committee rooms. The basic form of the building is simple - a six-storey rectangular block with a central courtyard. The entrance hall gives direct access, via a grand staircase, to the committee rooms on the first floor. The optimum use of natural light reduces the need for artificial lighting and cuts energy costs. DAVID MARKS JULIA BARFIELD ARCHTS

The British Airways Millennium Wheel is to be built on the banks of the River Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament. From the end of 1999, for a period of five years, millions of visitors will be able to enjoy unparalleled views over London.

Described as the capital's answer to Paris's Eiffel Tower, the 500ft- diameter Wheel will carry visitors in 60 enclosed passenger capsules for a spectacular "flight over the heart of the capital". The highest observation wheel in the world, it will be a demonstration of the use of renewable energy; solar cells are being built into the capsules and will help power the ventilation, lighting and communication systems.

The Wheel will be turned by its rim, using two motors sited at either end of the boarding platform.

Comments