As debate rumbles on (on this site as well as everywhere else in town) new images have emerged for the proposed tower to sit on the tiny footprint of the King Edward site, where the venerable old pub once stood, just over the road from Costco.

The mixed use apartment and office tower has been through quite some iterations over the years. This, the latest version, is designed by Maurice Shapero, and weighs in at a whopping 67 storeys and 199 metres tall.

It’s approved by the site’s owner, Peter Buglass: mind you, he did approve the site’s three previous schemes: all kicked back by our city’s planners.

Maurice Shapero has form. And good form, too. He’s worked on handsome redevelopments for Urban Splash in Manchester, and has been praised for his meticulous attention to detail, his response to site, and his judicious eye for materials and finish. He’s the chap behind our gorgeous National Wildflower Centre, for example – with its delightful rooftop garden walk.

The scheme is said to be based on the ubiquitous shipping container, which is quietly breathing new life back to the old docks north of here. It’s said to house house 22,986m² of apartments, 1,966m² of shops, 7,744m² of offices and a 1,168m² restaurant.

“‘The shipping container’ metaphor is a way to discover deeper truths and free creativity, rather than allow it to restrict us by operating at a level of literal representation. A generating idea must not become an attachment, but should act as a gateway to the ‘truth’.” Shapero Said. But, then, he is an architect.

In a letter CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) gave the scheme its ‘qualified support’, adding: ‘We welcome the decision to abandon the previous scheme design [by LRW]. The adoption of a rectilinear building plan and form is a bold move that could work well for the site, as quoted in the latest Architect’s Journal).

It’s a bold design, and shares a lot of similarities with schemes such as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – currently the world’s tallest building – in its equal attention to the horizontal as well as the vertical.

We’re not 100% sure (we doubt many readers are) as to the actual contours and limits of our World Heritage Site: come on, can you honestly say you know where its borders extend to? Honestly? There is, for example, not one single tourist guide in the city conducting an official tour of our UNESCO Site, so we really shouldn’t think of it in terms of other self-contained sites, such as walled old towns, bazaars and temples.

Curiously, from what we can gather, it seems that this particular scheme sits outside the listed areas of the north dock. Quite what UNESCO (or English Heritage – who seem particularly troubled by this sort of thing) will make of its proximity, or the shadow it will cast over the proceedings is another matter altogether…

The scheme goes before city planners this spring.

5 Responses to “The Tallest Tower In The North?”

  1. mdgreaney

    On your point about revising the WHS: these kinds of heritage designations aren’t about tourism, even if they are the prime economic benefit. They are about protecting those areas and buildings under threat from neglect and short term fashions in architecture.

    A lot of buildings were lost to post-war planning and regeneration in the enthusiasm for modernism. Today we look back amazed at what was destroyed unnecessarily, but the truth is that older buildings fell out of favour in the mid 20th Century – a fashion which we now often regret. Historic designations were therefore designed to see beyond such short term trends. This is why places like Preston Bus Station and Plymouth Civic Centre get listed, even though to 21st Century eyes they’re monstrosities. They should be protected if they are of architectural importance – though you can argue forever about individual cases.

    Assessments on designations should be objective (even if this doesn’t always happen in practice), and they should stand up to scrutiny over the long term, not change with the popularity of architectural styles or areas of a city.