Skyscraper architects to develop Wye ’science city’

A vision of Wye's future?

A vision of Wye’s future? SOM’s masterplan for Greenwich University

IT IS one of the world’s leading firms of architects and is behind some of the biggest projects on the planet — from the replacement for the World Trade Center in New York to the masterplan for the regeneration of Canary Wharf in London.

Now Skidmore, Owings and Merril (SOM) has been chosen by Imperial College to come up with the masterplan for its science park in Wye.

The firm — which is American but has offices all over the globe — is behind some of the world’s biggest building projects including the tallest building in the world, currently under construction in Dubai; the Freedom Tower in New York, which will be the tallest skyscraper on the planet when it is built; and the masterplan for the redevelopment of Canary Wharf, which was the biggest building project in Europe in the early 1990s. It was also responsible for the masterplan behind Greenwich University’s development in 1993.
SOM is so big that it has recently been contracted by Bahrain to come up with what has been described as a ‘national planning strategy’ — nothing short of the economic, social and environmental regeneration of the island kingdom in the Persian Gulf.

The news that Imperial has chosen a firm known for such grand schemes will further fuel suspicion about the size of the project it is planning on its 800 acres in Wye. Members of the South East of England Development Agency — currently being lobbied to include the Wye vision in its economic strategy for the region — have recently started referring to Imperial’s plans as a ‘science city’.

Canary wharf
SOM was behind the development at Canary Wharf

Pam Alexander, SEEDA’s chief executive, told a meeting of the South East Regional Assembly in January, that SEEDA was ‘aware of the opportunity presented by Imperial College’s proposals for Ashford as a science city’.

Founded in 1936, SOM is responsible for some of the world’s most iconic structures including the Time Warner Center and JP Morgan Chase buildings in New York and the Arts Hotel in Barcelona.

It is currently working on the regeneration of the site of the Twin Towers in New York, which were destroyed by terrorist attacks in 2001. When completed, the Freedom Tower, will be the world’s tallest building at 1,776 feet.

Nobody from Imperial College was available to comment when this article was published.

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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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