Miniview: Park Plaza Westminster

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    This site has enjoyed notoriety in the past. It was home to the Greater London Council’s Architects Department that created for themselves (as architects will, of course) a building that consistently won the votes of Londoners as London’s Ugliest Building. Londoners were delighted when the building was demolished, although its ghost lives on as hundreds of thousands of tons of demolition materials were used in the construction of London’s largest hotel. The 1,051 (at the last count) bed roomed Park Plaza Westminster now graces the site.

    Park Plaza is having a love affair with the South Bank. This is fully justified in my view, as many of the best views in London are from the south looking north. Certainly this hotel enjoys a spectacular view of the Houses of Parliament at the opposite end of Westminster Bridge. Park Plaza now has nearly two thousand rooms on this side of the Thames; Park Plaza Waterloo is on the opposite side of the road with 343 rooms, and Park Plaza Riverbank is a ten minute walk away with 395 rooms and its suite operation offers 55 rooms there for a grand total of 1844 rooms and suites.
    The new hotel is built to the latest environmental standards as the reuse of demolition materials shows. London has a growing problem with rising groundwater. Kept in check in the 20th century by the amount of industrial use of water in London, the water table has been steadily rising for years threatening many building basements and the Tube lines with flooding. Park Plaza Westminster’s contribution to solving this problem is the creation of its own bottled water. A bottling plant in the basement produces thousands of bottles of purified water from the underground aquifer for use in the hotels.

    The location has not been an easy one to work with. The road system was a major challenge, and the changing of the circulation pattern, which caused so much disruption to London drivers over the last few years, has transformed the approach for guest. Now instead of a seedy underpass full of rough sleepers there is an open plaza in front allowing tourists to stroll directly onto Westminster Bridge. The building plan has been oriented to maximise the views across the bridge, making the views from some of the rooms some of the best in London, if you are a fan of Barry.

    Relocating the roads has also enabled the hotel to have a sensible street presence. The rear, facing the railway, has staff and delivery entrances, and a slip road gives taxis access around the base to the front doors, which of course front the bridge. The glass of the building reflects the views and this whole area of London is now cleaning up nicely as it becomes a major tourist magnet. The removal of the Channel Tunnel terminal from Waterloo certainly does not seem to have reduced in any way the number of people thronging the area. Without going north of the Thames attractions such as the National Theatre, Hayward Galleries and Imperial War Museum are all an easy walk. This is indeed an inspiring location for any hotelier, and fully justifies the 15 years spent on bringing this building to fruition.

    Daniel Fountain / 26.09.2010

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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