Birmingham City Council leader Albert Bore last week ruled out building 'world-class architecture' as a spur to regeneration in the city, and said that landmark buildings similar to Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao would not feature in Birmingham.
His comments came as the council appointed HOK International to masterplan a 43ha site on the eastern edge of the city centre with retail and office space and a new park. The development value of the site for its retail element alone will total £800 million.
'For Bilbao or even Walsall with its new art gallery, a single building can be a spur to regeneration, but what Birmingham needs is a number of well-designed buildings, ' Bore said.'It's extremely important to get that right, but don't let's look for world-class architecture as a spur.'
His remarks could cast a huge shadow over the current planning application for Future Systems' radical new building for Selfridges in Birmingham city centre, but planning officials told the AJ that the leader of the planning committee remains 'supportive' of the scheme.
Bore was speaking at the British Urban Regeneration Association's annual conference in Manchester last week, where he admitted that Birmingham has failed to produce a single example of a world-class building in the past 20 years and voiced frustration that Birmingham has received so little government help on its regeneration projects. He claimed the need for private investment compromises design quality in the city.
'The quality of the external architecture of the International Convention Centre, for example, doesn't lend it world-class status, ' he said.'Its costs were set by the value of its returns as an investment for the private sector.'
Bore estimated that for every £1 invested in regeneration projects by the public purse, an additional £10 must come from the private sector.
'We don't get government subsidy in Birmingham, unlike London and the Tate Modern. We just struggle through, ' he said. The Tate received £56.2 million in Lottery cash and £12 million from English Partnerships, 45 per cent of its total cost.
Bore has backed a new centre for architecture in Birmingham which will give design a 'physical presence in the city'. The centre will be established with the support of the RIBA and will be staffed by about four people.
'It is there to promote concepts of good architecture and not just from a historical perspective, ' Bore said.