By Luke TK and Dulcie Lee
KING’S will destroy iconic Strand buildings as part of a colossal multi-million pound redevelopment project designed to hold 2,600 more students – but still have to face fierce opposition over planning permission.
The plans involve knocking through the first two floors of the Strand Building to fit a floor-to-ceiling glass frontage, building a huge tower next to the Strand Building, laying a glass floor on the currently tarmaced Quad and opening an Embankment entrance.
The College said they “won’t know” the project’s cost until April – but it is thought to be at least £20m, with College sources quoting wildly different figures up to £100m.
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But the College were accused of “vandalism” for their controversial plan to bulldoze historic 18th century Strand shops – which they want to replace with a so-called ‘New Academic Building’ which “immediately” integrates with the current Strand Building.
The original 2012 proposals were much smaller, only including the Quad section of the redevelopment, and were priced at £20m.
The plans have since ballooned and a College spokesperson told Roar: “We … won’t know the cost of the redevelopment until we know what we are permitted to develop.”
Bar floors one and two, the Strand Building itself – widely regarded as fugly – was unfortunately described in the brief as “a permanent part of the campus”.
People would also be able to enter King’s by Embankment through a Grade I listed archway in Somerset House that is currently used to store skips.
Westminster Council will rule on the fate of the proposals in April, and are inviting feedback on the plans here.
The College said: “If our planning application is successful, we hope construction will commence in summer 2015 and complete towards the end of 2018.”
However, building was supposed to begin in 2013 for the original Quadrangle renovation and finish last year.
It’s unclear how disruptive the three-year construction will be. Roar has reached out to the College on this. The students’ union said they will work with King’s to minimise disruption.
The redevelopment will boost Strand’s capacity for students by 2,600, with new space amounting to almost half a football field.
King’s launched an open competition for the design of the redevelopment in 2012, with 300 students and staff being consulted on the shortlisted entries (out of the 10,700 Strand-based student and staff body).
The final decision rested with a “jury panel” including students’ union officers.
The planning documents said: “The proposals for the Quadrangle have developed into a much harder, less soft-landscaped place.”
“This is in response to reservations expressed by English Heritage about the presence of trees”.
Only one of the five 18th century buildings lining the Strand will survive the cull due to its Grade II listed status.
Planners had “considered at length” keeping the individual Strand shop facades with a redevelopment behind them but concluded this would not meet “King’s needs.”
The Embankment entrance will be restored and potentially include storage lockers and a café.
Sebastiaan Debrouwere, president of KCLSU, said: “If any major decisions are taken on the project that would impact the student experience or contradict the outcomes of the previous consultation, we would fully expect the college to go out again and consult on this.”
Roar has asked for clarification on what constitutes a “major decision”.
However, Sebastiaan agreed that the redevelopment was a necessity: “It’s clearly something that is required. The fact that the university is addressing this concern with an ambitious plan is a good thing.”
The new foyer, The Forum, will host art exhibitions and events hosted by the King’s Cultural Institute and will be accessible to the general public.
The developments will add two entrances to the campus from the Thames Embankment and the Strand, manned with security.
Potentially, a medieval burial ground and a Saxon rubbish tip lie under the redevelopment site, although any exact location is unknown and it is deemed very unlikely.