Fast becoming the playpen for architectural experimentation in London (think the Shard, Strata, and the Quill amongst others), Southwark could welcome this rocket-shaped tower, which is proposed as an extension to the Russian-owned Menier Chocolate Factory, a theatrical space on Southwark Street.
The 24-storey building, which resembles a solid booster rocket and access tower, contains residential and office space, and is part of a development that would include an extended theatre for the Menier, an art school, restaurant, and a museum dedicated to tea and vodka (the national drinks of Blighty and Russia, naturally). In an unusual twist, the complex would incorporate a new raised public plaza, named for the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.
Gagarin, whose orbital voyage took place fifty years ago this April, may seem the unlikely recipient of such an honour. Yet when Yuri-fever raced across the world in the summer of '61, London wasn't exempt. The Times reported on the "cheering crowds" that greeted him at London Airport, from whence he was borne in a hammer-and-sickle embossed Rolls Royce to the Russian embassy, and later to lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. As the anniversary approaches, Gagarin's star is on the rise again (sorry); a street in Houston, Texas is to be re-named in his honour.
Is it right for London to honour the first man in space in such a fashion? Can we expect Muscovites to be enjoying a stroll in Dame Ellen MacArthur Park in years to come? And, perhaps most importantly, when are we going to get a statue of Laika?