Wednesday 24 March 2010

March 2010: Park Plaza Westminster

One of the huge benefits of doing this job is the places you go see and the interesting people you meet along the way. Another commission for Building Magazine saw me photographing the brand new Park Plaza Hotel, just to the south of Westminster Bridge. Occupying the centre of a notoriously ugly roundabout that contained a building once voted one of Britain’s ugliest, the new hotel couldn’t be more different. The road has been re-routed and the hotel is modern, stylish, beautifully thought through and a photographers dream. My escort for the day was Lisa Maxen from the construction arm of Park Plaza, Gear Construction. Her enthusiasm and knowledge of the project were both amazing and totally contagious. Having tea with her and the architect I quickly realized what a feat of engineering it really is. With a V-shaped atrium giving many rooms a view over Westminster Bridge and a huge column free ballroom underground, the construction methods used were vitally important. More complex than I fully understand, they incorporated the use of a vierendeel truss from the 2nd to 13th floor and cantilevering the building over the road by 7m to give more space. What I did find really interesting as I stared at it in disbelief, is that due to large full height atrium the building is effectively two structures held together by a post-tensioned slab at level 13. A belt, without which the building would just peel apart!!

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