Orms start construction of music venue at St Giles, London

Onsite work has started by Orms Architects at the eagerly-anticipated St Giles which will provide two new live music venues within the Tin Pan Alley revival scheme. Situated by the new Crossrail exit at the crossroads of Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, New Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. 

St Giles Circus by orms architects St Giles Circus by Orms architects

Here is the article we featured in our #Futureforecast printed edition.

The redevelopment of any area deemed to hold cultural significance, but lacking the pomp and pageantry of traditional historic and heritage sites, poses significant questions for both architects and society as a whole. Is the proposed new concept really legitimate and necessary? How much non-monetary value will be lost in the dust and debris that comes with the cycle of demolition and construction?

St Giles Circus by Orms architects

Denmark Street, in London’s St. Giles, close to Soho, is a relevant case in point. Consolidated Developments and Orms Architects are leading on a planned re-imagining of this world-famous thoroughfare and its immediate proximity, with the new Crossrail acting as catalyst for blueprints. The site itself is contained within Andrew Borde Street in the north, St Giles High Street in the east, Denmark Street itself to the south, and Charing Cross Road on the western edge. A relatively compact area compared with the city’s mega-projects, nevertheless it’s significant within the dialogue surrounding culture and its perceived value.

Commonly known amongst musos as Tin Pan Alley, in the 60s and subsequent decades Denmark Street was regarded as the (unofficial) home of the British music industry. Bands like the Kinks, Rolling Stones, Small Faces, and Sex Pistols recorded and performed close by, institutions like NME and Melody Maker had offices in the vicinity. Countless album contracts were signed here, innumerable guitars and instruments sold, and more acts broken on the stage at the legendary 12 Bar Club than we could ever hope to list.

Times always change, though, not least when a major new transport system is being built, spanning the length of the metropole, causing significant upheaval in the process, leading to a very real requirement to alter and adapt the urban landscape once new tracks are laid. As is the case here; Tottenham Court Road is due to become an interchange between current Central and Northern Underground routes, and the Crossrail project’s addition of a new Elizabeth Line to the existing network. The required work will leave significant scars in need of careful grafting.

St Giles Circus by Orms architects

So here’s the plan. Two new buildings have been proposed for the part of the site that is north of Denmark Place. The larger of the two directly opposite the new Crossrail exit will be called the Now Building, the second, smaller structure is yet to be christened. Within the former there will be a four-story Urban Gallery, housing an LED skin that can be used to project and deliver a variety of information. This should offer significant social benefits arising from having a single place where the public can interact with digital experiences and emerging brands from across the world. Live event streams, what’s on listings, signposting and sponsored content are just a few examples of what could be displayed here, so no two visits will be the same.

What sounds like a gimmick serves a far greater purpose. As part of the overall masterplan there will be two new music venues offering different capacities- from intimate spaces to the largest, currently at 800 persons, although it is hoped this will increase to 2,000. The aforementioned Urban Gallery will act as a waiting area for attendees before they get inside the largest venue, with income from air time on the skin offsetting the venues, ensuring they remain viable businesses.

St Giles Circus by Orms architects

Elsewhere on the site, the original 12 Bar Club will remain in place, and largely untouched (albeit one of the new venues will occupy a space beneath the current address), thus acting as a historic landmark to promote the cultural value of Denmark Street/Tin Pan Alley and its surrounds. A further two smaller buildings have been proposed for Denmark Place, which will be mixed use split between retail, hotel, and restaurant/bar enterprises, breathing life into a somewhat unattractive and underused back alley; alongside the provision of a new development behind a retained facade, again on St Giles High Street.

The fundamental idea being to build upon the musical heritage synonymous with the area, nodding to the developer’s track record for supporting music and smaller retailers, in turn encouraging record labels, publishers, music shops, artists and the public to return and re-invigorate what is currently only really the remnants of an industry heartland. All this calls into mind one question, though- if the scheme is so good, why has the Save Denmark Street campaign been established, suggesting those behind the overhaul are unfeeling profiteers, looking to tear down something many people treasure in the name of ‘progress’?

As London’s skyline continues to stretch ever-closer to the clouds, ideas surrounding urban redevelopment and regeneration in the capital grow increasingly controversial. From the perception of foreign investors buying up large swathes of property, in turn displacing residents and destroying communities, to the ongoing pressure to make greater use of what space is available amid ongoing increases in land value, the subject is nothing if not sensitive.

The resulting backlash has seen scores of protest and activist groups spring up, intent on raising awareness about the loss of place to cash hungry private interests, if not stopping the march of change altogether in some areas. But what if the unarguable trend in U.K. development- wherein people are considered after profits- has led to a temporary blindness amongst average Joes and Josephines? What if we’re now so aware of how some projects are inherently bad for society, diversity, culture, and socio-economic equality, that whenever any new project is proposed the voices of opposition are instantly convinced its impact will be negative, before all the facts have been properly checked?

St Giles Circus by Orms architects

This story is free and open source. You have permission to republish our story under a Creative Commons license as long as you credit Design Exchange and relink back to our website.

One Response to “Orms start construction of music venue at St Giles, London”

  1. Fiver says:

    It’s really hard to believe everything you read…

Leave a Reply