The first images I show when I start teaching my Sustainable Design class at Ryerson University School of Interior Design are of Will Alsop's Middlehaven Scheme, being built by the British developer Bioregional Quintain. It is, like much of Alsop's work, wildly eye-catching and unconventional, but designed around Bioregional's principles of one planet living that go far beyond LEED, but include being zero carbon, zero waste, supporting local food and the health and happiness of its residents. It was and is a wonderful vision.
They really were a model for the industry; their One Brighton project was pretty much car free, generated half its power from biomass and photovoltaics, and its roof was covered with allotment gardens. Managing director Pete Halsall was quoted on the website, talking about one planet living:
In many ways it provides a common language of sustainability in a world increasingly aware of the environmental, social and economic challenges we face in the near future."
And alas, it is no more, as BioRegional Quintain has just announced that it is closing its doors, finishing only the first phase of Middlehaven and pulling out of the One Gallions project in East London. According to Building Magazine:
Pete Halsall, chief executive of BioRegional Quintain, said: “It is extremely sad, but it is part of a wider decision of Quintain’s board to focus on its core business. My understanding is that Quintain wants to be able to express sustainability in its developments in a different way.”
Will Alsop was none too happy, as the Guardian notes:
The firm's demise was lamented by two Stirling prize-winning architects, both of whom have worked with the developer. Peckham Library architect Will Alsop, who was the master planner on Middlehaven, said: "It is very sad news. This was a company very committed to doing things in a more responsible way."
Peter Clegg, of Feilden Clegg Bradley Architects, which designed One Brighton, called the development a "great shame".
"It was a joint venture between some of the most conscientious sustainability thinkers of the past 10 years and one of the more significant developers, which had significant resources," he said.
It is a real shame.