What is The Slab – and why is it so controversial?

It sounds like it could be the subject of a new horror movie about a giant piece of meat terrorising all of London’s vegans. The real-life Slab is actually a colossal new addition to London’s skyline. All marvel at the mightiness of The Slab.

Set to redevelop the former ITV offices on the Southbank, the ginormous building will house 4,000 office workers. The official name of the project is is 72 Upper Ground, and it has already been approved by Secretary of State Michael Gove. It will be designed by architecture firm Make and backed by Mitsubishi Estate and CO–RE property developers. 

The 2.5 acre site promises to be a mixed use work and community space that ‘prioritises well-being and sustainability’, but some people aren’t happy about the proposals. 

The Save Our South Bank Action Group (SOS) is planning to pursue legal action to try and stop 72 Upper Ground/The Slab in its tracks. The group made up of locals, green campaigners and architecture enthusiasts has launched a fundraiser to raise £15,000 to take the challenge to the High Court through environmental law firm Richard Buxton Solicitors.

Critics of the 79,000 square metre office block say the enormous scale of the building will threaten beloved landmarks, bring environmental concerns and jeopardise London’s architectural integrity. The Slab’s opponents also say Gove’s decision undermines communities by putting financial interests first. SOS said Gove’s plan was ‘legally flawed and contradicted his recent announcements regarding housing priorities and reducing carbon’.

However, Lambeth Council is in favour of The Slab development, which proposes to be fully electric and fossil-fuel free. The Slab is targeting net zero carbon in operation along with a BREEAM rating of ‘outstanding’, the highest certification of sustainability.

The development will include new green spaces, cafés, a rooftop restaurant, 1,300 cycle parking spaces, and London Studios, ‘a multi-level cultural and innovation hub’ with around 40,000 square feet of affordable workspace for the creative industry. 

London Studios will have rehearsal studios and facilitate an on-site residency programme with Lambeth-based organisations including Black Cultural Archives, Iconic Steps and Young Creators UK. Here are some images of what 72 Upper Ground/The Slab is expected to look like. 

72 Upper Ground, London
Image: Make Architects
72 Upper Ground, London
Image: Make Architects
72 Upper Ground, London
Image: Make Architects

Shinichi Kagitomi, chief executive of Mitsubishi Estate London and Stephen Black, director at CO—RE said in a joint statement:  ‘Through all stages of the planning process there has been strong recognition of the fantastic addition that 72 Upper Ground will make to the South Bank and to London. Local young creative groups, Lambeth Council, the GLA and now DLUHC have all backed our proposals for a high-quality commercial and arts-led development befitting of one of London’s most famous destinations.

‘72 Upper Ground represents a £700m investment in the UK, creating over 4,000 new jobs, and vital new workspace that prioritises sustainability and wellbeing. Crucially, it will benefit the local community through the London Studios, which will provide 40,000 sq ft net of affordable workspace that is tailored to the needs of Lambeth’s emerging creative industries. This includes new cultural venues that have rehearsal space, gallery and presentation spaces and studios, alongside new public spaces with river facing cafes and restaurants.

‘We understand and respect the responsibilities that come with building a major new development in this prominent part of central London. We are looking forward to working with our cultural neighbours and the wider community to deliver an outstanding building that makes a significant positive contribution to its place.’

A fabulous innovation or a modern monstrosity – what do you think of The Slab?

In other news for architecture lovers, M&S’s flagship Oxford Street store will be demolished. Plus, the former Heinz headquarters in northwest London is being turned into flats.

Listen to Time Out’s brilliant podcast ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’: the newest episode with AJ Odudu in Regent’s Park is out now.

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