MURRAY'S ANALYSIS SETS OUT A BLUEPRINT FOR THE RESCUE OF CUMBERNAULD
When George Ferguson unveiled his hit list of the UK's most hated buildings, everybody squirmed.
There was distaste for such shameless populism; debate about the wisdom of presenting the serious business of demolition as a prize in a nationwide party game; and a sense of impending doom as the RIBA president blithely paved the way for yet another bout of public architect-bashing. Our fears were confirmed when the idea was seized on by Channel 4.
Against the odds, architects are coming out of it rather well. Geoffrey Copcutt, who designed Cumbernauld shopping centre, the 'building-which-most-deserves-tobe-destroyed', is dead, which leaves the task of defending the project to objective (as opposed to defensive) observers. Gordon Murray, of Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects, has challenged the simplistic depiction of Cumbernauld as a symbol of the folly of architectural utopianism. Describing it as 'the one construction in Scotland where the theoretical is manifest in the reality', he redefines it as an example of the disjunction between architectural theory and the technological and cultural conditions with which it has to engage.
While this may sound like nit-picking, his analysis sets out a blueprint for a practical rescue plan. Double-height and open-plan spaces which have been compartmentalised to comply with fire regulations can now be reinstated thanks to new technologies. Strategies to attract multiple uses could bring the project closer to Copcutt's original vision of a bustling town centre - with nurseries, library, social club and hotels.
The populist call for demolition may yet be overshadowed by Murray's observation that 'if there has been any crime committed in Cumbernauld, it is one of municipal neglect'.
Demolition is on Channel 4 on 17-20 December at 8.00pm. The next issue of the AJ is on 12 January.