Imperial’s architectural taste: the Elvis connection

Ever wondered what the proposed Wye Park might look like if it’s ever built? We assume, naturally, that the housing and office accommodation that make up the bulk of this planned development will be the usual Legoland stuff. But Imperial certainly has some interesting ideas when it comes to its own property. Take a look at the oddity below which, if the college gets its way, will be the new entrance to its South Kensington Campus.

Imperial arch

The winning architects Berman Guedes Stretton say, ‘The structure is based on pure geometry to reflect the scientific and mathematical heritage of Imperial College. The Victorians understood the nature of “entrance” with dramatically canopied stations; this proposal is an appropriate response for a college which was largely founded in this pioneering spirit.’

It rather reminds me of something else, below.

Fremont Street

This is the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, an effort made to revive a tawdry part of the original city that had become even more sleazy and adult-oriented than the rest of the place. Very clever it is too — with light shows involving everything from Santa Claus to Elvis and showgirls, depending on the time of day. There’s a lot of mathematics in gambling as well, I suppose, so perhaps there is a connection. Architecture is a business that involves a lot of ‘synergy’, isn’t it?

This and Wye are not the only controversial planning developments Imperial has on its hand. Some students are pretty irate about a new proposal, just slipped in to Westminster Council, that will, if granted, allow the college to build on some of the last remaining green space it has, the Queen’s Lawn. The area used for the Summer Ball and Fresher’s Fair will, Mr David Brooks Wilson’s team hope, be handed over to a three-storey temporary Portakabin to accommodate staff the college wishes to ‘decant’ — their word not mine — from elsewhere. No ordinary Portakabin mind. The letter to the planners notes, ‘… the Queens Lawn forms the setting for the Grade II listed Queens Tower, this has been accounted for in the proposal with a sympathetic design opting for height to minimise footprint and hence proximity to the Tower’. So the fact that it’s taller makes it better, you see.

The plan will require the removal of a tree planted in memory of a student and has cost the college more than £9,010 in fees so far, a drop in the ocean, of course, as far as the Wye proposals are concerned. Under Imperial’s own timetable, it should be submitting the first Wye planning application in June — which gives them eight weeks in which to get their act together. Anyone taking any bets on whether they will meet that deadline (if they do, it will be the first they have achieved)? And when, do you think, will someone on the Imperial Council ask for a running total on how much the Wye Park project continues to cost as it heads slowly for the rocks?

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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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2 Responses to Imperial’s architectural taste: the Elvis connection

  1. J.Lo says:

    sad to see that no one is commenting any longer. I had heard that a number of people had been ‘got at’ so I guess they are right.

  2. David Hewson says:

    Got at? The comments have certainly tailed off of late. But the readership is running at double the rate of six weeks ago, which is what matters really I guess.

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