Hondo have submitted plans to redevelop the Sports Direct and Flannels site between the tracks on Pope’s Road in Brixton into a 20 storey office tower with market space on the lower floors.
The plans have been drawn up by Adjaye Associates, the architecture practice of David Adjaye who created a video for the BBC where he admires local tower block Pinter House.
The building is split into two sections, the tallest being 20 storeys and another tower of nine storeys. The market element will span the basement, ground and first floors, while the tower will also contain a restaurant on the eighth floor.
The developer of the scheme also owns Market Row and Brixton Village markets, and seek to use the scheme to increase the unique character of Brixton as the South London hub of markets.
The use of upper floors as office rather than residential may be of some surprise given Brixton has not traditionally been seen as a major office location and due to uncertainty of future office demand given the current pandemic and potential fallout from Brexit. However the area has become a popular location for creative firms.
The facade is made up of a grid layout of red brick with gold framed windows, mostly in arch form, paying homage to Victorian factory designs.
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Not sure how I feel about this. It does feel like the final nail in the gentrification coffin for Brixton. Brixton’s vibe has always been so unique and kindred and crazy in the good way but if they start turning central Brixton into an iron clad office block, it feels like the city’s tentacles have overreached and will strangle the individuality out of the very heartbeat of South London. I don’t know if this scheme has been approved but I’m definitely on the fence about whether this kind of neophyte architecture suffocating the remaining grassroots markets when they’d already taken death blow hits with the seizing of the arches for refurbishment and tenants of 25 years plus were given 3 months to vacate. That must have been two years ago now and, regardless of the covid19 situation and lockdown, a majority of the arches are not filled (not related but the same situation for Railton Road in Herne Hill and all the storefronts that have stood empty there for years now. Development for development’s sake that will tear away at the very fabric and vibrancy of an area world renowned for its idiosyncratic residents and the loud beat of the buskers’ drum, seems misguided in an era of lockdown and taking care of your neighbour. When the last yeller disappears and the morning bible basher chooses a new spot and no more music serenades your journey out of Brixton tube station I fear we will all look at one another and bow our heads as we should have been more careful what we wished for. I for one think that these communities should not be disenfranchised and should have a rite to go about their business without the menacing shadow of blind consumerism blocking the sun and staring unforgivenly over their shoulders. They deserve to be wardens of their own history, they should be rewarded for their creativity and individuality, not priced out of a market that does not count these things as virtue, instead just a stepping stone on the ladder of what makes London London into a commodity in all ways. I am a strong believer that if you’re bored of London, you’re bored of life and it’s the very people that drive the heart of that message who are at the very crux of this matter. London has survived great fires, world wars, terrorist attacks a plenty, global crises, floods and so much more, yet continues to rebuild upon itself and flourish in new an extraordinary ways. We will be the ones to blame if we volunteer our cultural soul to the corporate vultures. I don’t know much in my life, but I know London can be a harsh mistress – chewing up many and spitting many out. We should fear a city that is not ferocious, we should fear the threat of benal planning applications that do not cherish the communities they’re descending on but push them further to the edge, making it that much harder and ceasing to grasp the reason that people want to be in Brixton in the first place: it’s alive, it’s unpolished, it’s raw wounds and bleeding scabs, it’s vibrance, it’s vitality, it’s sheer unadulterated uniqueness, it’s passion and it’s refusal to be anything except authentic. We are surrendering its weakest and marginalising it’s ability to offer something for everyone. In an age where the pendulum of pandemic has blurred the lines between the haves and have nots as this virus knows no class, we are in danger of missing the point, clueless in the unending race for money and greed. These hardy soldiers that called the streets of Brixton home should be wardens of their own history – not have it dictated to them by the nameless faceless developer who only prays at the alter of greed. I don’t know about you, but I have always felt a keen sense of belonging in Brixton, an unshakeable joy as I roamed (sometimes stumbled) the streets, a smile always firmly on my face as I avidly people watch on my way to the market or M&S. Some would argue that building like this creates jobs and furthers the economic growth of the recipient of their plasticine wonders. I would argue that it makes our colours grey where once we were bright and beautiful and full of colour in a lacklustre world. The mask of our own hired hitman seducing us into a false sense of security, creating an economic illusion, telling us we have a price, we can be bought, waving a shiny new building in front of us true carrot to donkey style and then taking our cultural soul to slaughter. I don’t think we should sit idly by without recognising the shallow pond we are about to dive head first into. And it makes me sad. London’s magic has always been in its ability to evolve while staying the same; honouring traditions and ethnicities and beliefs as virtue. When the growth finally strangles the history by disenfranchising the very people who imagined and dreamed this beautiful place, we will be sorry. Some of us sought it out, some of us fell into it, some of us were born to it, but the reason we are all so proud to be Londoners is because we see the value in the old with the new coexisting in harmony. And yet I fear we are dancing on the thin ice of history where our colours become greys and all the vibrant huges that defined Brixton become opaque – we turn a blind eye and hang our heads slyly as the gentrification bulldozer literally flattens the community it’s meant to champion. It’s not about just another office block, it’s about finding a balance in a world that really needs to be more kind.