Thursday, 24 September 2009

"Inspiring"? I don't think so.

While I was away at the Lib Dem Conference in Bournemouth, the new DCSF office building in Beaumont Street received planning permission. The DCSF says it is an "inspiring office". I really don't think so! From the artist's impression it looks like the worst example of a 1960s office block. In this respect it will sit nicely across the road from our town hall, reflecting the all the style and subtlety of that iconic building - none at all!

It looks like a rectangular box, with another rectangular box sticking out the front and little square boxes sticking out from the main facade. It's a huge disappointment.

I was a member of the Feethams Working Party, which worked on ideas for this part of town. More than once I said, as did others, that any offices built in this area should be on a human scale, and should incorporate all that is best in contemporary design. Sadly, this building meets neither of those criteria. It is large and ugly and adds nothing of style to the built environment.

Yes, it'll be good for the town centre to have nearly 500 staff working there and this area desperately needs redeveloping, but not with buildings like this.

Drive up to Newcastle and look at the wonderful modern architecture of the new Northumbria University buildings. Why can't our town have buildings like these?

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment doesn't like the building. Even veteran Labour councillor David Lyonette says it's ugly and looks like a bunker. Just like our pedestrianised High Row, where all the style and individuality of the existing area was ripped out to be replaced with anonymous bland stonework, so here again the lack of vision of this Council is apparent. It should have sent this back to the DCSF with an instruction to come up with something that doesn't look like it's been made by a six year old out of Lego.

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