London Structures Causing Controversy: Novel Architecture or Selfish and Unnecessary?

From gigantic glowing orbs to glass pools and pop-up artificial mounds, there has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding recent developments in London. While there may be good intentions behind these new structures, there has been some oversight concerning both local residents and green-life through their construction.

The MSG Sphere

Let’s start in East London for example where New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) company plan to erect the MSG Sphere – a live entertainment concept featuring the biggest and highest resolution screen in the world – exciting, yes? Perhaps not if you happen to live right next door.

The sphere will sit as wide as the London Eye and tall as Big Ben, while the stunning power of 36 million LEDs will light up Stratford like a 24-hour sun. Add this to the “infrasound haptic system” of vibrating floors and “beamforming” audio technology channelling sound to every seat, and there is some serious light and noise pollution coming from the structure.

What’s more, the five-acre glowing dome will be covered in animated adverts for major parts of the day and evening, leaving flickering lights and varied colours streaming directly into neighbouring windows.

Whilst it is exciting to have iconic and alluring structures bringing artists and fans from across the world to visit London, this itself poses some potentially very dangerous problems. Building a giant new glowing attraction capable of holding 21.5 thousand people right next to an existing 60 thousand strong Olympic stadium is going to cause Stratford’s narrow and already highly congested tube station some major issues. However, MSG have stated it will work with the Olympic stadium to avoid clashes in events wherever possible, in the hope of preventing travellers being crushed or trampled.

Ultimately, the decision on whether this humongous structure will get the go ahead lies with mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. In an article by the Guardian, it’s reported that Khan, ‘was enthusiastic about welcoming “another world-class venue to the capital, to confirm London’s position as a music powerhouse” when the sphere was announced in 2018; yet the following year, his planning officers’ first report concluded that it did not comply with his own London Plan.

Whether granted or not it is clear the plans have caused much controversy with everyone from residents to councillors and government.

Nine Elms Sky Pool

The precarious swimming pool bridging the gap between the two new ‘legacy buildings’ of Embassy Gardens in Nine Elms is another new London structure causing a stir recently. The 25m pool is made of clear acrylic with a foot thick bottom and suspended 10 storeys above the ground.

Dubbed the Sky Pool, the structure has left a bad taste in many mouths, being viewed as a literal glass ceiling. In a report by the Financial Times, it explains, ‘Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea are still largely deprived parts of the city defined by huge swaths of public housing and surprising poverty amid the many now-gentrified terraces. It is precisely because of this contrast in wealth that the Sky Pool seems so obscene.’

What makes this development more contentious is its exclusivity to the upmarket apartments which it bridges. Whilst it’s a great luxury to those with access, it’s a great slap in the face for those denied access in the shared-ownership apartments below.

Marble-Arch Mound

Then there’s the on-off Marble Arch mound. Let’s face it, this one didn’t quite go to plan. Designed to be an impressive Instagram-able attraction with picture worthy views over Hyde Park, Mayfair and Marylebone, the attraction soon became viral for all the wrong reasons.

The 25-meter, £2m mound was meant to entice consumers back to Oxford Street after the pandemic had seen stores close for the best part of a year. However, visitors were left disappointed and a little confused as the vegetation slowly died and the views were mainly obscured by trees from other buildings.

CGI images of the structure depicted lush greenery, mature trees and an onsite play area. In reality, the largely browned grass clung desperately to the walls of the structure with deprived trees sat uncomfortably on top of it all. What’s more, the play area wasn’t actually open to the public for its launch. To top it all off, people were then charged £4.50–£8 to climb the winding staircase of the scaffold hill.

The trees will supposedly return to a nursery when the hill is dismantled, and the other greenery “recycled”, but it is highly questionable whether this will be possible after six months perched on scaffolding.

Whether it’s an invasion on people’s homes, a floating divide on the community or a slightly embarrassing waste of greenery, there have certainly been some questionable developments in London recently.

Thankfully these sorts of structures are rare and London is filled with countless examples of stunning architecture. If you’re looking to work in one of our beautiful office buildings, give London Offices a call on 020 7166 7981.