Yesterday I was showing some work experience girls around the city centre and pointing out some of the on-going regeneration projects. During the walk around (and between the truly random 15 year old girl nattering about boys, weight and tv programs, not to mention falling out of airplanes!!), one of the girls asked what makes a historic building better or nicer to look at than a poor example of a modern, or modernist, building?
It’s impressive that this came up and this is at the heart of one of the major debates in architecture – modern vs traditional. My view is that we should be preserving all the good historic buildings and slowly recycling the less important ones, old or modern. The contrast between an historic building and a well-designed modern building can be impressive, with the contrasts helping to promote each style.
We were wandering around the Kings Square area and it’s really clear to see how a lack of investment in that area has affected the image of the city. This is a key area in many ways, being the arrival point for the majority of visitors to the city, with the bus and train stations and a couple of significant multi-storey car parks. This is in many ways the worst part of the centre and it’s what provides people’s first impressions of the place.
So, in the spirit of balance and fairness, here are some examples of the huge amount of investment that has been, and continues to be, put into the city.
top row: Merchants Quay (MQ) in progress, MQ computer perspective, MQ perspective sheet, Kyneburgh Tower in progress, Richard Serra example
bottom row: Southgate Street new public realm, Docks detailing, Language Immersion Centre (LIC) in progress, LIC computer perspective
Developer: Peel Holdings
Architects: Dyer Associates
This new shopping centre opened in May 2009 and provides shops, cafes and restaurants. Unlike the local moaners who don’t like parts of the facde, I feel it’s a good product and has already enhanced Gloucester. It provides us with an alternative to the high street shops and the architecture especially around the historic docks side is very good. Opening during the worse recession in most people’s living memory hasn’t helped, but hopefully things will imrove.
Docks public realm works
Construction: Barnwood Construction
Landscape architects: LDA Design
A very significant project for the city and has made a huge impact to the overall quality of the Docks area. The finishes and detailing are very good and this provides part of the route between the Quays and city centre.
Merchants Quay apartment block
Developer: Crest Nicholson
Architect: Stride Treglown Tecktus
Due to be completed in October 2011 and already a 2010 Shortlisted Scheme – Housing Design Awards. It’s a double warehouse apartment block providing 48, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. A huge amount of work has gone into this development and it should be a worthy addition to the listed warehouse which surround it.
Language Immersion Centre
Construction: Carter Construction
Client: Gloucestershire County Council
A £6 Million education centre, provided by the County Council, which will give students a chance to speed learn a variety of languages by an immersion method. It completes the existing Blackfriars Priory – the best preserved example of a Dominican Priory anywhere and one of the oldest surviving libraries in Europe.
Kimbrose Triangle / Linkages public realm project
Construction: Balfour Beatty
Client: Gloucestershire County Council
The linkages scheme connects the Quays shopping centre with the centre, via the Docks. Part of this route has undergone and impressive public realm face lift, with high quality materials and a big improvement. Parts of the shared surface idea haven’t been executed well but the overall impact is very positive.
There are a number of public art features by Tom Price, including an art wall and tower (Kyneburgh Tower). The original concepts for these were to represent flowing water, but due to various technical problems, the original material had to be changed to a dark and weather proof metal, which gives a rather Richard Serra feel! A real shame as it completely changes the perception of the artworks.
Anyway, there are some real regeneration schemes happening right now, including new housing, artworks, commercial outlets, education and public realm projects. I was walking around these various schemes today and was starting to feel proud of the city!