One of the advantages that I think CLS have over other developers is the fact that their headquarters are based in Vauxhall on part of the site intended for the Vauxhall Square development, so they're well aware of the site's strengths and weaknesses. I came away from the exhibition thinking more positively of the developers and development, but that doesn't mean that the plan will be considered perfect by local residents, and I'll elaborate on a few responses I've had below.
Display board #1 attempts to show the exact location of Vauxhall Square, but it's not clear to those who aren't hugely familiar with Vauxhall's sprawl of warehouses. The development is bounded by Parry Street, Wandsworth Road, Bondway and Miles Street. See my sketchy google map for a more approximate location (the shading does not delineate the exact boundary of the site).
Also, take a look at the following photo for a better idea. The yellow building with blue windows at the top right hand side of the photo is where one of the towers will be situated. The white-rooved warehouse area will be cleared and that area will mostly be taken up by the new Vauxhall Square.
The photo below shows (far left) a yellow building currently occupied by a homeless shelter. The second tower will be placed on top of that building slightly further back from the road. The homeless shelter (whose building is not apparently brilliant) is to be entirely replaced and moved to another section of the site. (I take back my sarcastic comments that CLS had not considered the needs of homeless residents in the locale and have removed them from my previous post.):
The new homeless shelter will be cited roughly where this car park appears (centre):
The inclusion of the number of injuries and fatalities at Vauxhall Cross on board #2 is a clever device. Quite frankly, I'm surprised that there haven't been more accidents. Also, I'm impressed that CLS are at least /saying/ that they're thinking about cyclists (as well as pedestrians) on their boards. What's interesting is that CLS have assumed that the Vauxhall gyratory will remain in place (Lambeth Council are known to desire its removal, but this is opposed by TFL). Consequently, the Linear Walkway (see further down) may prove Lambeth Council's most viable option. One positive about the Vauxhall Square development is that it shows some thought as to the inhospitable nature of Vauxhall and at least proposes a solution (even if it proves unviable) to residents:
I believe that the "terrace of townhouses" referred to on Board #3 are houses that would be demolished. Take a look at Tradescant blog post on the subject for a close up photo of the terrace.
Board #4 gives an introduction to the possibility of Vauxhall Linear Walk. The Linear Walk would be a giant pedestrian (and supposedly cycle friendly) overpass through Vauxhall that wouldn't involve crossing the huge 6 lane road to go the gym or visit a supermarket or go to the cinema. Considering that there is currently no humane mode in which a pedestrian might navigate through Vauxhall, the Linear Walk suggestion surely cannot make matters worse than they are at present. The initial comments on the Linear Walk at the London-SE1 forum aren't particularly positive and Kennington People On Bikes considers the Linear Walk is "sticking a plaster on a running sore". He thinks that vehicular traffic dominates the area in an unacceptable manner, and looking down over the 6 lane road, it's difficult not to disagree. On the other hand, nobody else has come up with a better suggestion.
I asked a lot of questions about accessibility re. buggies/wheelchairs/bikes, and was told that the walkway would be accessible by lifts at certain points (which doesn't give me a great deal of hope because of the never-ending propensity of Londoners to urinate in enclosed spaces). Also, I'm concerned about the frequency of lift breakdowns, and how that might hamper some of society's more vulnerable (I'm not thinking cyclists) in moving around Vauxhall. I also asked about security since one of the issues of an unpatrolled walkway would be crime. Apparently the walkway would be the responsibility of Vauxhall Square site personnel, but it's not clear that they would "police" it per se. (And indeed, do local residents really want private security firms doing "policing"? Not really.) I think that the viability of the walkway is dependent upon the questions of security and accessibility being answered well. I'd like to know whether the architects have considered non-male wheelchair users as something other than a second thought. How many women currently feel safe when walking alone in Vauxhall at night? And how many women would be happy to use the proposed elevated linear walk alone in Vauxhall at night? Those should not be secondary architectural questions. Rant over.
Board #5 is general blurb about CLS and their base in Vauxhall:
The "square" in Vauxhall Square is to be the centrepiece of the new development, shown in Board #6. The aim is for a public space akin to Paternoster Square (which is relatively empty at weekends and full of city types during the week) (see Board #10). This being Vauxhall, chances are it probably won't work in the same way. The development's security personnel would have responsibility for the square, so I suppose there's a question of quite how "public" it will be, but open space is a positive.... or is it?
One person that I spoke to at the exhibition felt that Vauxhall Square should not be paved, but should ideally include some green space which would link up with Vauxhall Park (the green area below on the left of the photo) forming a green corridor that would link through to the new Linear Park (you can see the linear park on the model below as it lies directly between and beyond the two towers). It sounds like a good idea in theory, and apparently the developers are receptive to such ideas, but I don't know how it would work because of the railway that runs through the area forming a huge barrier between Vauxhall Park and Vauxhall Square:
Board #7 is the reason that the Evening Standard dramatically proclaimed, "Skyscraper threat to ski jump bus station". The issue is that the Linear Walk would rise up over the top of the bus station, and retaining the canopy is not really part of the CLS plan. I've received quite a few emails now from readers interested in the development, but not one person has made any noise about saving the canopy, so I'm not sure that it's too important. A competition has been launched to replace the canopy and design the Linear Walk:
Board #8 is just more blurb on the Linear Walk:
This photo shows some of the nine or so potential exits from the Linear Walk. There are also stairwells inside the structure too:
The Linear Walk is bipartite. Here's the smaller walkway which crosses the busy Wandsworth Road (and which would entail the destruction of the terraced housing), linking Vauxhall Square with the Linear Park, and forming the "entrance" to the rest of the Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea developments:
On Board #9, we see the introduction of retail, restaurants, another hotel and also a cinema. I wondered whether the cinema might not compete with the Kylun Towers cinema, but was informed that the Kylun cinema was likely only to have one screen and be for residents only. I don't seem to recollect that being the case during the Kylun exhibition, so I do wonder about being fobbed off with the "cinema" line. Not, of course, that a local cinema wouldn't be a fantastic asset. I remain concerned that the market in the area will be flooded with hotels (there are many being building in Waterloo too). How many have we reached now. Five? Six?:
My favourite line on Board #10 is the mention of the Post Office, clearly something that would be vital for businesses and residents. We've only had to fight off two post office closures in the past few years, one on Kennington Road, and another in Vauxhall Street so I'm presuming it would be a private Post Office, immune from the imminent massive public sector cuts.
However, I don't think anybody can object to improvements in the railway arches and surrounding streets, and the advantage of the Vauxhall/Nine Elms plan (over against, say, the Elephant) is that it doesn't generally involve the displacement of current residents in the area. The plan on Board #10 (you'll have to zoom in) shows 8 retail/restaurant units in addition to the cinema and 2 office units, but I imagine that's just a broad brush stroke, and the units will be quite large and probably divided up to create additional businesses. Scroll to the bottom of the plan and you'll see, separated by an attractive line of trees, both the hostel for the homeless and adjoining student accommodation. That will be interesting!:
Board #11 lists all of the important people that have been consulted about the plan so far:
More blurb, with board #12 featuring a view of the twin towers from the Battersea end. (Notice how the sketch's perspective indicates that the St George Vauxhall Tower appears to be much much taller than the Vauxhall Square twin towers. In reality, there's not much difference in height between them.) Also, a nice view of the US Embassy and moat:
Here's the same view from the model. I really liked the models at the CLS exhibition, and they photograph well when they're not placed in plastic boxes:
Board #13 mentions the two aerial walkways that are successful in Paris and New York. Obviously, it doesn't mention the seventies walkways liberally littered across the UK and avoided by the general public. See the comments on this post for a few points from locals so far. Of course, in the interests of fairness, we should allow that they may not be representative. But even still, I can't figure out what separates the successful aerial walkways from those that are avoided by the general public and I'm not sure Vauxhall is the best place for a new "test case":
Boards #14-#16 are only of interest to architects or others involved in the design competition:
Finally, here's a quick view of one of the models which gives, from Vauxhall Park, a better perspective on the height of the Vauxhall Square towers and all of the surrounding buildings: