Azara Blog: Richard Rogers to plan Cambridge railway area

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Date published: 2005/04/28

The Cambridge Evening News says:

The pioneering architect behind the Millennium Dome and the Pompidou Centre in Paris has been signed up to oversee development of the station area in Cambridge.

Ashwell Property Group - owned by millionaire property tycoon Paul Thwaites - has drawn up a masterplan for the £725 million project which includes flats, offices, hotels, car parks, shops, a public square, guided bus interchange and a county heritage centre.

The firm has now announced the design team behind the project will be headed by Richard Rogers, the celebrated architect behind many of Europe's most daring buildings.

Lord Rogers, who taught architecture in Cambridge in the late 1960s, said: "The entrance to Cambridge, one of the world's most beautiful cities, is in dire need of urban regeneration."

"This is a remarkable opportunity to design a dynamic urban environment and create an entirely new gateway to Cambridge."

Ashwell is set to submit a series of planning applications for the one million square feet - or 25 acres - of land in the triangle around Station Road.

They will form the basis of the largest regeneration project in Cambridge for decades. The firm is referring to the massive project simply as the CB1 Scheme.

Mr Thwaites said: "Cambridge attracts more than 4.6 million visitors each year, second only to London. The area around Cambridge station has seen no meaningful improvements for nearly half a century."

"CB1 will be the first real mixed-use development in Cambridge, responding to local needs and demands."

"The development will reflect the European model where people work, live, shop and socialise in the neighbourhood, encouraging a sense of belonging and pride and improving quality of life for all."

The area around the Cambridge railway station is so dreadful it's hard to see how Rogers could manage to make it any worse. But he could.

The idea that this is the first "real mixed-use development in Cambridge" is false. The old gas site on Newmarket Road is mixed-use, and Arbury Camp, if it ever goes ahead, will be mixed-use (although there will be few retail shops in Arbury Camp because the Cambridge ruling elite have long since decided that people west of the Cam should be forced to cross the Cam to go shopping).

The idea that this development is "responding to local needs and demands" is also false. Local people will have little say in the matter, it will all be down to the developer and the Cambridge ruling elite.

The idea that this "development will reflect the European model where people work, live, shop and socialise in the neighbourhood" is also false. Like all other residential developments near the railway station, many if not most of the people who end up living there will be London commuters. And it's hard to believe that even those who are not London commuters will work in the associated offices or shops. In a "knowledge-based" economy (which Cambridge allegedly is) jobs are highly specialised and most people do not live anywhere near their job.

So lots of politically correct jargon put out by the developer (certainly a necessary requirement to appease the Cambridge ruling elite), but words count for very little.

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