Love it or loathe it?

At the Jester Festival a couple of weeks back arguably the most interesting stall was a rather low-key affair. When I walked past it was manned by James Earl, chair of the Neighbourhood Development Forum. On his table were a set of photos of local building and spaces and a sheet against each one for a “love it” “hate it ” or “no comment” tick. West Hampstead being West Hampstead, some people of course wanted to write a few words as well – even in the “no comment” box.

The idea of all this was to get a sense of what sort of developments people felt were appropriate for the area as James and the rest of the NDF begin to draw up the Neighbourhood Development Plan.

The results are interesting, not least because they don’t always show a consensus, which is both encouraging (diversity of opinions is generally good) and worrying (how will locals ever agree on what we want). I’ve ranked them below are in descending order of “love” votes (which does not correlate exactly with the number of “hate” votes – Emmanuel School’s new building in particular was vehemently despised by many, but still attracted a fair number of “love” votes).

I’ve included most of the comments. I’m not sure how I feel about the vitriol with which some people want to pull down buildings in which other people live. Overall, there’s a clear sense that everyone likes the traditional architecture of the area, while the rather monolithic structures such as the Travis Perkins building are almost universally loathed. This building is owned by Camden and is up for redevelopment in the not too distant future, so you shouldn’t have to look at it for too much longer – nevertheless, I await the outcry over the proposed redevelopment.

People are much more divided over the smaller-scale modern buildings – some appreciating their design aesthetic, others seeming to claim that anything with a more bauhaus feel is automatically ugly. Of course many modern buildings, although offering less living space, are often far more environmentally friendly than the large high-ceilinged Victorian and Edwardian mansion blocks and homes that dominate the area.

James decided not to include the artist’s impressions of the 187-199 West End Lane development, with its set of tower blocks or the student accommodation that’s under construction down Blackburn Road at the moment. I think everyone who cared has probably expressed their view on the former, while the latter seemed to pass relatively unnoticed, despite being of a similar height.

There are still a couple of days left to fill in James’s survey about the local area, and it’s well worth doing as this will help inform the Development Plan, which is being drafted as we speak.

Ok, on with the results…. I’m sure you’ll have your own comments to add at the end.

Mill Lane Shops
Love: 118 Need more; Hooray, lovely, more like this on Fortune Green Rd please
No comment: 3
Hate: 0
Library seating
Love: 101 Good but should have been 3 or 4 separate benches; nice; very nice; excellent
No comment: 9 No cleaning provided, now a rubbish dump, but an improvement; waste of money during a recession; Money donated by private donor; waste of money improvement
Hate: 1 Should have spent it on books
New Thameslink station
Love: 86 Very nice; great design; modern – nice; great new street scene; need benches please; longer to get to but looks nice; we should use the space for a weekly market
No comment: 3Could have been more creative in using the space inside and outside; how about some seats; looks ok; need benches
Hate: 4 Lighting not good at night
View down Hillfield Road
Love: 79 Gorgeous
No comment: 8 Beautiful; shame about the estate agent’s board; ok
Hate: 2
West End Green area
Love: 76 Gorgeous
No comment: 3 A mess, should be improved for the community; dull paving; too much dog poo; the green needs doing up
Hate: 4 pigeons
Leafy Solent Road
Love: 73 Gorgeous
No comment: 2 OK
Hate: 3 too many cars
New houses on Mill Lane
Love: 66 Very nice; sustainable
No comment: 10 Ok; great; clean design; nice design but extortionate for the size of the houses; very small, very expensive
Hate: 37 Should have had front gardens not drives; ugly; does not fit in with environment
Extra floor added to mansion block
Love: 51 Blends; ok; well done; very good
No comment: 21 Didn’t know it had been done; didn’t notice; it goes with existing building
Hate: 3
Mill Apartments (under construction)
Love: 39 Blends in well
No comment: 13 Ok; not sure; average
Hate: 11 too tall
Infill house on Ravenshaw St.
Love: 36 Love it; great; lovely; very good
No comment: 17 not bad; half-good half-bad; brick fits in, windows ok, maybe juts out too much; why white?
Hate: 18 poor; not in keeping; too modern for the street
Zero-carbon house on Ranulf Rd
Love: 25
No comment: 18 Nice, but how sustainable is the wood? Interesting
Hate: 24 ugly; took up too much road and pavement on a blind corner
Emmanuel School
Love: 35 Colour of bricks will stand test of time; needed regardless of appearance; well proportioned, well detailed; not bad; not love but it’s pretty good; very good; great design
No comment: 16 Not sure about purple bricks; brickwork rather dark; brickwork wrong, design ok; why were red bricks not used; great it’s extended but bad design
Hate: 51 Don’t like dismal grey brick; no red bricks; too near street; ugly; grey; frontage too far out, too high; out of character; disgusting brickwork; looks like architect’s office in Berlin; shame on you Camden; industrial building
Flats on Kingdon Rd
Love: 19
No comment: 17 Does not go with red brick
Hate: 57 Too high
New houses on Gondar Gardens
Love: 16 Ok here; quite nice look and good-sized windows; successful infill
No comment: 11Ok some issues with brick; wrong design does not match the surroundings
Hate: 64 looks like an industrial building not a home; ugly; too much grey
New house on Mill Lane
Love: 10
No comment: 8
Hate: 54 Awful; ugly; not in keeping; poor; urgh; terrible eyesore
Office conversion on Sumatra Rd
Love: 9
No comment: 18 Ok
Hate: 29 ugly; more trees; shockingly ugly and cheap looking
Ellerton Tower on Mill Lane
Love: 7 Classic Sydney Cook era architecture; looks like a giant snail but it is monumental; love it, from the inside top floor
No comment: 7 Don’t like it; monster ugly
Hate: 78 Hideous knock it down please; vile; demolish now!
Paved-over gardens
Love: 6 who cares; none of our business
No comment: 28 Ok; nice garden to sit in
Hate: 34 environmentally unsound; shame!; ok; bad for foundations; awful; nasty; too much run off
New building in Maygrove Rd
Love: 5 
No comment: 8 good functionality; very poor exterior design; low brick wall is security risk for residents
Hate: 33 needs trees; front looks life office building
Buldings on Maygrove Rd
Love: 2
No comment: 13 Ok
Hate: 32
Travis Perkins building
Love: 2
No comment: 8 Rather indifferent
Hate: 74 Demolish; horrible desing; height
  • This blog post

    Love: +1
    Very interesting. Hope to see more examples, such as the JCC!

  • Anonymous

    I think this survey shows how architecture is as subjective as any other art form! My personal loves are the new houses on Gondar Gardens and the three on Mill Lane (an absolutely stunning example of modern architecture). The pre-fab house on Mill Lane on the other hand is a classic example of how not to do it and just looks like a cheap replica.

    Interestingly, I love the Mill Lane shops but my girlfriend finds the street run down and scary!!

    Toby

    • Anonymous

      Couldn't agree more

  • Anonymous

    How odd that no buildinds are represented on the other side of the interchange area!!!

    • Good point – this may be partly because the area covered by the Neighbourhood Development is skewed north (it's the West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards at the moment). Agree it would have been interesting to have, for example, the view down eg Sherrif Road, top of Broadhurst Gardens, the parade that includes Lately and the Safer Neighbourhoods building.

  • Marston

    There are several buildings that were missed – apologies. As well as below the interchange area also missing the Sager building up by Fortune Green. No conspiracy, just cock-up. Will try to rectify in a follow up survey at some stage – apart from south of the Interchange any other suggestions?

  • Ghoul

    The building at the WEL end of Mill Lane is a disgrace, all things considered – especially when you recall what was knocked down to make room. The actual colour I don’t mind, but the overall blandness is just inexcusable. You’re not allowed to fit a small UPVC window in a roof conversion without jumping through hoops (actually, not at all now – has to be aluminium – quite ridiculous), yet it’s fine to put up something like this, which only a real dullard could have created after too much cider in a pub garden, apparently. It’s arrogant and out of order.

  • Anonymous

    The 4 new houses on Gondar Gardens look really well thought out and make a great use of a small site in a city which needs new homes. Anyone know who the Architects are?