Greenwich

The Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich and its glorious surroundings, including the world-famous Observatory, are best viewed from the Thames as I discovered during another maritime-themed trip out and about with the Godfather. The view is one of pure history. But looking back from the Queen’s House, the centre-piece of the development, things couldn’t be more different.

The majestic Queen’s House was built for Anne of Denmark by Inigo Jones as the first classical building in England. It was part of the Palace of Placentia, which was the principal residence of Henry VII and the birthplace of both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The beginnings of a new palace for Charles II were constructed by the river but the project never came to fruition. Instead, the scheme was massively adapted by Sir Christopher Wren with breathtaking symmetry in mind and became Greenwich Hospital, later the Naval College.

Across the river from Greenwich is Canary Wharf, built on the old West India Docks. It contains not only 1 Canada Square, the tallest building in the UK, but also 8 Canada Square and the Citigroup Centre, the next two tallest. It’s not hard to imagine that the futuristic view from Greenwich, though not historic, is somewhat iconic.

The original Kemp Town – and by that I mean Lewes Crescent, Sussex Square and a select few surrounding streets – was Brighton’s first great classical composition. One objection to having towers at the Marina is the effect that they would have on old Kemp Town. And I can understand why. Many oppose towers per se but for me it’s a love-hate relationship. Towers polarise – I love New York; I hate everything tall here from the 1960s. The Marina is the one place in Brighton & Hove where towers might work. I’d love to see towers with integrity there but simply wouldn’t trust anybody to build them.

A mini-Manhattan of high quality individual towers would work. If an adventurous masterplan was in place, all of the Marina’s major defects could be fixed in one hit – ground level, access, layout, etc. There’s simply nothing there worth keeping so why not just start again? Thomas Kemp certainly would.

What could be achieved at the Marina is uncertain but it does provoke thought. What is certain though is that the towers of Canary Wharf add to the charm of Greenwich. And Greenwich is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.