Plans are afoot to redevelop Twickenham station and crown the project with 170 (text confirmation: one hundred and seventy) flats. That’s the equivalent of ten lots of seventeen flats. Or even four blocks of 42 and a half flats. No wonder some of the local residents are upset. Perhaps the announcement is one of those politico style briefings designed to make you feel oh so relieved when the eventual building has just 100 flats. Perhaps it’s all about managing expectations. Whether it’s 100 or 170 it will be a big development. Combine this with the new hotel that’s going to be tacked onto Regal House and it’s going to be like New York out there. Or maybe Croydon. Of course, New York has the Empire State Building, the City of London has the gherkin and Croydon has, well… Croydon has a lot of pretty uninspiring buildings.
Regal House already gets a lot of stick. OK so it’s not the most attractive building but the paint job it got a few years ago did improve things a lot – like Gok Wan making the best of what’s available, girlfriennnd. Or perhaps not. Regal House is already Twickenham’s token big building. It’s our older, squarer gherkin. Will these new developments be better and more loved than Regal House in the long run? We might well need more flats and a hotel (and that’s a much debated point in itself) but unless you’re building the Guggenheim in Bilbao or the Sydney Opera House the message has to be keep it simple, stupid. Twickenham doesn’t need any bold statements from architects making their lasting mark on the town before retiring to Devon, but nor do we need identikit suburban blandness. The challenge for those responsible for Twickenham’s development is not how it’s going to look when the paint’s dry and Vince Cable has cut the ribbon but how it’s going to look in twenty years time. Let’s hope they’ve got the vision and skill for that.