Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Falling flat

Leeds has changed a lot lately. It's gone upwards. Lots of new buildings comprising lots of flats have been built on the sites of old warehouses and the like. The skyline is now puckered by tall buildings with nobody living in them. Hence, this report doesn't surprise me.
And yet more are planned. There was a regional show on the BBC with Linda Barker (she of ubiquitous adverts a few years back) banging on about the regeneration of Bradford and comparing that to what's happening in Leeds. And she totally missed the point.
The recently opened Bridgewater Place is currently the tallest building in Leeds and comprises a large number of flats. Barker showed us the inside of one of these, and your 200 grand or whatever doesn't buy you much space. Plans are afoot for a building twice that size, cringeingly described as a 'vertical village'. At 52 stories, that's a lot of flats with no identifiable group to buy them.
Also mentioned were plans to build on the site of the international pool in Leeds. The chaps responsible for 'The Gherkin' in London are undertaking this project. They described this building, The Spiracle, in the usual terms of being iconic and that. They showed us a model. They explained that the wind turbine was predicted to supply more than enough power for the building itself, but could also return some to the National Grid. But at no point was it mentioned who had asked for this or what it was for. And therein lies the problem. The maxim of 'build it and they will come' just doesn't work. The huge number of empty offices and flats in Leeds is testament to that.
Meanwhile, Bradford is caught between two stools. Does it ape Leeds or does it do something different - complementary even. The plan, however, appears to be to flood half of the city centre to create some hideous water feature. This has been planned for ages though and nothing ever seems to happen apart from more meetings and more conceptualisation. Meanwhile, the old Odeon in Bradford is finally coming down and will be replaced by a louvred building which looks like a modern turn on the old 1960s architecture that everyone's in a rush to rip down. This featured on the aforementioned Barker show and again, for all her cooing over the plans and drawings, at no point was this building's purpose revealed, nor it's end users.

Redevelop if you must, but building for the sake of building is what created the mess in the first place. Heed history.

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