From The Point to The Piano – the final designs to replace a Milton Keynes landmark are in! But will it ever be built?


Main elevation of proposed new Point, fronting Midsummer Boulevard

After years of debate and several stabs at the drawing board bosses at retail giant Hammerson must be praying for MK Council to approve the final designs for the new Point later this week (7 March 2019).

Since 2012, Xplain has been asking the architects to produce a distinctive, classy design that reflects the Modernist setting of MK.

Have they succeeded? We could always ask for more, but certainly this is a great improvement on earlier designs, including the ‘exploding Toblerone’ pictured below.

The architects explain that the ground and first retail floors provide a podium which the leisure box sits upon. The facades were “influenced by the natural rhythm created by pleached trees. The linear order of the trunks is replicated in the retail podium, with the more flowing [order] becoming the leisure box and roof terrace wrap.”

Design and Access statement

This is not as fanciful as it sounds. Milton Keynes is also known as a City of Trees, and if you squint your eyes, you might just imagine the dramatic pillars on the main facade as the tall trees holding outstretched arms.

The exploding Toblerone design – now ditched

Notable features of the latest designs include:

  • Rhythmic facades inspired by the MK grid, in grey and bronze metallic materials
  • Proper colonnades, instead of useless canopies, which provide weather protection and are a distinctive feature of CMK
  • A landscaped roof-garden which will be one of the first to offer public views over MK
  • The ability to project digital artwork on the new facades
Rhythmic blocks in ‘piano key’ design, with roof garden peeping above parapet to left
A wall of plants marks secondary access to roof garden

Xplain first suggested a roof garden at our very first meeting with Hammerson seven years ago. If built, it will be the first place where people can enjoy rooftop views over MK, hopefully along with some live music.

But even if approved on Thursday night, will Hammerson’s grand ‘Piano’ ever be built?

The company recently announced losses of £266m and, given the state of the retail and leisure market, the BBC reports further asset sales to ease debts. Could this prime site, in a relatively strong retail destination, be added to the list?

7 thoughts on “From The Point to The Piano – the final designs to replace a Milton Keynes landmark are in! But will it ever be built?

  1. Berg

    What a total eff-up. Looks absolutely shite now. The earlier designs were far better. Now you’ve managed to let them get away with a design that already looks suitable for demolishment. Truly awful.

    Reply
  2. CMK1

    Good grief. The Piano looks absolutely rubbish!!! Looks like the Ikea warehouse in Bletchley.

    What is happening, CMK? The dream of world-class iconic design and freeflow traffic is becoming a joyless British nightmare of ugly developments and deliberate traffic disruption. Sad times 😦

    Reply
    1. Berg

      Totally agree. Why does MK have to have only build soulless, flat, dull, square, depressing boxes? Is the vision to make things ripe for demolition before they’re even built I wonder?

      Reply
  3. Alan Senior

    I am liking what I see! This is a huge step onward from the earlier Mickey Mouse shapes we saw. My main reservation would be the ability of a crippled retail operator (Hammerson, just like intu, a basket case) to see this through. Having said that, getting the principles of colonnades, vertical garden, roof-top garden, public access, city view, terrace café and all as part of a smart bit of structural texturing is something I would welcome with open arms provided it has an assured commercial future. Well done to all the supporters of the MK vision for future-orientated design and social planning. Wow, it’s a long time since I could say that! Let’s see it gets done.

    Reply
  4. Peter Howard

    I don’t buy the ‘pleached limes’ story, but they do appear to be good stylish low-key elevations. I wonder what the floor plans are like? The Point needs to stay there until Hammerson have signed a contract for the construction of the new building. We don’t want an empty site, or worse still a ‘temporary’ car park.

    Reply
  5. buell8abe

    I hope that our iconic The Point will remain into the future, a) because nobody really wants to lose it, and b) as a reminder of the promise we were made that it would always be the tallest building in the city.

    Reply

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