First the good news – the rebuilt Cutty Sark is starting to look terrific. The widely-mocked “greenhouse” below seems to work well, and things are looking good ahead of its official reopening by the Queen on 25 April. Considering the problems at the Cutty Sark Trust (whose website has now vanished), I’m wondering if there’s anything to read into the fact that the old ship’s been taken under the Royal Museums Greenwich banner, along with the maritime museum, Queen’s House and observatory.
Cutty Sark Gardens is also starting to emerge, although it still feels grey and featureless and less green than we were led to believe in the consultation. But it’s early days.
And now, the bad news. Those without strong stomachs, look away now. I’ve never known architecture to make me actually physically queasy, but the crappy-looking restaurants on the pier have done just that.
I’m not sure which is worse, the look of them – like ticket booths at a theme park – or the horrible bronze cladding, which looks like the kind of stuff painted onto a cheap £2.99 imitation Oscar statuette. How on earth did we end up being lumbered with this crap?
Local councillor Matt Pennycook has touched upon some of the issues, and says Greenwich Council is to take “enforcement action” against the restaurant operators for the unauthorised, garish signage. You can even see a huge Frankie and Benny’s logo from Island Gardens, on the other side of the Thames.
Unfortunately, there are few clues from the February 2007 planning meeting which gave these horrors the go-ahead, and there’s no documents on the council website from the original planning application. A BBC News story from the time does feature a useless-looking artists’ impression, though.
But seriously – how on earth did these get the nod? What changed in the five years between permission being granted and completion? What do these f’ugly lumps mean for World Heritage Site status? And what can we do about them?