Thursday, 13 February 2014

Smithfield plan not driven by profit, says McAslan

Architect gives evidence during public inquiry into £160m development

John McAslan has denied his £160 million Smithfield redevelopment was designed to cram in as much office space as his client “could get away with”.

The architect, giving evidence at the public inquiry into the scheme, said he would have refused a brief that demanded the demolition of the historic market, as envisaged in a previous plan by KPF.

Instead he stressed how much original fabric was retained by his practice’s proposal and said it reached “the right balance” between restoration and viability.

McAslan, who later briefly walked out of the inquiry, was being cross-examined by David Cooper, solicitor for Save Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society, which object to the architect’s plans.

Cooper asked McAslan: “If there’s a conflict between the wish of [the developer] Henderson to make more profits you will go along with your paymaster’s desire to have as many offices as they can get away with.” McAslan replied: “Absolutely not.”

He said he was guided in part by intuition. “As an architect you usually have a sense, and I think I have a heightened sense, of what may or may not work on projects,” he added.

Far from overshadowing the market, the stepped retail and office “pavilions” would “celebrate the retained elements”.

He said Foster & Partners’ 2005 offices at Spitalfields market were a “far less elegantly” realised version of the one he has proposed for Smithfield.

Henderson’s barrister, Christopher Katkowski, said the conservationists’ “campaigning hyperbole” suggesting the market would be “swept away” was quite wrong.

“If these well thought-through proposals are turned down, and you returned to look around in a few years’ time, one thing’s for sure,” he said. “You won’t find yourself enjoying the delights of an artisan market in wonderfully restored Victorian buildings. For this notion, however well-meaning and however beguiling, is nonetheless to move into the realms of fantasy.”

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