Fitzroy Place keeps up a facade

On my way to a meeting this week, I came across this interesting bit of structural engineering. It’s the facade of the old Middlesex Hospital on Mortimer Street in the heart of ‘Fitzrovia’, an area of London north of Oxford Street long associated with artists and writers.

Fitzroy Place Facade

Part of the hospital’s original facade.

The vacant hospital, a fine example of Victorian municipal architecture, was controversially demolished in the spring of 2008 to make way for Fitzroy Place, a mixed-use luxury development. The west-facing facade was retained completely, presumably to help the development retain its links with history and place.

Middlesex Hospital

The western entrance to the old Middlesex hospital has been retained.

Construction began in June 2012 and is expected to be complete by 2014 but by the look of the lift shafts, it is clear that the Fitzroy Place will dwarf the surrounding streets – facade or no facade. And the development, a mix of apartments, shops, restaurants, offices and its very own members’ club, seems dominated by the usual mix of steel and glass combined with bricks and mortar of the mock-Georgian terrace.

Mortimer Street Facade

Lift shaft looms large over the original hospital shaft

Fitzroy Place continues to court controversy, with Westminster Council criticised for not insisting that developer ‘Exemplar’ provide the 25% quota of affordable housing usually required under planning law. The same council opposes an application for Fitzrovia to be designated a cross-borough ‘Neighbourhood Area’ under the Localism Act. Such areas aim to give locals more power over planning and building matters.

London’s history has always been dominated by change – demographically and architecturally – and the Victorians were as guilty as any for building over the past, but there is something quite depressing about Fitzroy Place. Depressing that a development largely serving the rich has replaced a building that served the local community for over 250 years; depressing that the developers have adopted such a pedestrian approach to design and materials; and depressing that Fitzroy Place, with its strapline – “Where Creativity Lives” – will more than likely destroy the area’s creativity that it aspires to, than add to it.

2 thoughts on “Fitzroy Place keeps up a facade

  1. We in East London are facing the same demolition/facade scheme for our historic London Fruit and Wool Exchange (1929) at Spitalfields Market. Also the home of London’s largest WW2 underground air raid shelter – in the basement – known as Mickey’s Shelter. The developers of ‘Fitzroy Place’ are the same who propose to demolish the Exchange (and two other 1920’s buildings and a 17th C. street), leaving a similar gutted facade, behind which they want to build their development. Unfortunately for West London and the community in Fitzrovia, the developers have demolished. Here in East London, SAVE Britain’s Heritage have stepped in and applied to English Heritage for listing for the London Fruit and Wool Exchange. A decision is pending. This landmark, and the Market’s only surviving 1920’s building, is already offices, originally with Shops and Showrooms on the ground floor – but it is being demolished to build offices upstairs and shops below. Of course the building, “one of the most handsome public buildings erected in 1920s London” (Marcus Binney CBE, President of SAVE Britain’s Heritage) is eminently re-usable. No doubt Middlesex Hospital could have been re-used. It seems these developers are not interested in our heritage or London’s, nor our communities or our livelihoods. Like Fitzrovia, there was huge opposition in Tower Hamlets to the demolitions of built heritage and the threat to our ancient but still thriving Market. Our council thankfully refused permission but unfortunately the developers took it to the Mayor for London, who overturned the decision. Spitalfields Market will never recover if we suffer the same fate.
    So sorry for the people who now have live and work near this ‘Fitzroy Place’ – it is exactly what we fear here.

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