The award-winning architects who revamped Hastings Pier are part of the consortium working on the controversial Silvertown Tunnel scheme, despite signing a pledge to evaluate all their projects on their effect on the environment, it was revealed last night.
Architects’ Journal reported that dRMM is part of the Riverlinx consortium that has signed up to build and operate the £1.2 billion tunnel for Transport for London. It will design portal buildings on the Greenwich and Silvertown sides of the Thames, as well as a new foot and cycle bridge over the A102 to replace the existing 1960s structure.
The organisation won the Stirling Prize, Britain’s top architecture award, in 2017 for its work on Hastings Pier in East Sussex, which had been destroyed by fire seven years earlier but had been taken over by a local charity with 3,000 shareholders. The judges praised how a “smouldering pier in disrepair and decline” had been turned “into a vibrant public space with a palpable sense of ownership”. The charity later went into administration and was bought by a businessman.
dRMM is also a founding signatory of Architects Declare, which promised to “evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach”.
However, teaming up with TfL on the project puts the firm in direct conflict with Extinction Rebellion and other tunnel opponents, who say it will lead to more traffic and pollution – including carbon emissions. Roads account for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions from transport while campaigners also worry about the effects from the tunnel’s construction.
Transport for London has always insisted that the scheme will end queuing for the Blackwall Tunnel, which will be tolled along with the new scheme; opponents say the road will fail to do that and feed other jams, such as the southbound jam on the A102 each weekday evening.
dRMM has also designed Trafalgar Place, a residential block at the Elephant & Castle which was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize, and part of the Olympic Village – now East Village – at Stratford. It has also designed the Charlton Workstack, a distinctive block for small businesses by the Stone Lake roundabout on Woolwich Road which was first announced in early 2018 but has yet to materialise. The project recently received City Hall funding.
The company told Architects’ Journal: “The project is at an early stage and we are developing designs using sustainable construction materials. We have approached the brief as an excellent opportunity to make vital infrastructure sustainable and contribute positively to the urban realm.”
David Rowe, the head of major projects sponsorship at TfL said: “We are looking forward to seeing the designs from dRMM, which are expected to be high quality and fit seamlessly into the wider regeneration of the areas on both sides of the river. The replacement cycle/footbridge will also support our wider aspirations for more journeys made by walking and cycling, and will connect into planned redevelopments around the Greenwich Peninsula.”
Victoria Rance, co-ordinator of the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition, said: “This £1.2 billion scheme will increase carbon emissions…motor traffic and pollution in some of the most deprived and already most polluted communities in southeast London. It is only economically viable if levels of motor traffic in London are maintained far above levels compatible with Paris Agreement emissions targets. We would urge dRMM to look very carefully at the publicly-available details of the scheme, stick to their principles, and refuse this toxic contract.”
Seeing Architects’ Journal reporting on the tunnel project will cause dismay at City Hall. Its forensic coverage of the Garden Bridge fiasco and its aftermath has dogged both Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan.
TfL published a redacted version of the contract to build and operate the tunnel yesterday, while Greenwich Council signalled it would soon sign an agreement to help facilitate the construction process.
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