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Despite praise, Williams makes the Welsh see red


Credit where credit is due:

Austin Williams' thoughtful article (AJ 3.6.04) started to get under the skin of the extraordinary Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, exploring its architecture and giving a flavour of the debate that it is stimulating.

But I am not really surprised that you still can't quite throw off your metropolitan preconceptions. Percy Thomas Partnership, the 'local' architectural practice, has offices in Birmingham, Hong Kong, Manchester, London, Shanghai, Edinburgh, Bristol, Belfast, Rome and Dubai - it just has its roots in Cardiff.

I am, however, surprised at Williams' dismissal of William Pye's Water Tower as 'the obligatory water feature'. It is one of the most engaging pieces of public art around - reflections of the surroundings and the sky distorted by rolling waves of water endlessly sweeping down the polished surfaces. It fascinates young and old.

And I am astonished that he could not appreciate the quality of Nicholas Hare's Oval Basin.

This is very definitely not a 'desolate reclaimed dock? landscaped in a most anodyne way as enabling works to some future scheme, any future scheme'.

Far from being a 'depressing regenerative desert', it is one of the most used outdoor spaces in the city, a setting for performance, markets and all manner of community activity - full of people on summer weekends.

The gently sloping timber surface (not paviors) is a generous, expansive urban landscape gesture, and a delight even when virtually deserted on a grey winter afternoon. Its very calmness and simplicity is its strength.

And please, no more oxygen of publicity for dear old Max [Boyce].

Richard Parnaby, chairman, Design Commission for Wales

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