At the development control forum this week, the developers confirmed the broad plan they intend to construct on the 3-acre Brill Place site (behind the British Library).
That plan sees the public-facing parts of the building (the grand entrance, and the parts of the building open to the public, including the grand auditorium) at the eastern end of the site, together with the vast bulk (perhaps 90%) of the very limited open space being provided.
Heading west, in the middle of the site is the “secure” part, to which the public is denied access (presumably mostly the actual working laboratories), then there’s the “service” parts of the site, loading bay etc, at the eastern end – what will clearly be, to users and observers, the “back” of the building.
There is a staff entrance there, jutting right out on to Ossulston Street, although one of the UKCMRI speakers said that the route to get from there into the working building parts would be “tortuous”, which suggests not a lot of staff may be using it, and certainly not to nip out for lunch and such-like, with the commercial benefits that the developers claim the medical laboratory will offer to the businesses and people of Somers Town.
The whole building indeed seems designed to push its users into St Pancras station instead – and to discourage Somers Town people from entering it.
And then there’s the siting of the load bay, at the western end of Brill Place, cleverly right opposite the entrance to the sheltered housing of Monica Shaw Court. The road is very narrow. In summer, several of the inhabitants regularly sit out in that garden. A loading bay really isn’t what is needed to improve their view or the quality of their lives.
There seems very little sign that the consortium is prepared to compromise on any of this. There was some sign of wavering on the total lack of west-east permeability of the site, which is going to throw an enormous amount of pedestrian and cycle traffic on to the very narrow (and now quiet) Brill Place. So there might be some possibility of what is now described as “fire access” at the far south becoming an access route out of St Pancras station, although it will take some very fine designing indeed to ensure it isn’t simply a dark and scarey alley (not something I’d bet on given the design “quality” of what we’ve seen thus far.
More on the proposed medical lab.