RIBA president George Ferguson's war on architectural eyesores amounts to 'ethnic cleansing', according to the man behind Bristol's 'vile' Tollgate House.
Ferguson described the 1970s office block as 'absolutely terrible' and a 'dreadful gateway into a splendid city', and wants the tower, known locally as 'the concrete Bible', placed on an X-list of Britain's worst buildings in order to speed up its demolition.
However, Kevin Steer, chairman of Stride Treglown, which designed the offices, has hit back: 'George is subjecting buildings to the style police and hopes to use taxpayers' money to do it. Tollgate House was conceived over 30 years ago and has fulfilled its need for years. I don't think it is a building of great beauty, but so what if it says something of its time? What George is saying is something akin to ethnic cleansing.' Steer maintains there are more sustainable ways of improving the cityscape than pulling down 'ugly' buildings and that there are other options for ageing towers such as Tollgate House.
'Whether or not the building has reached the end of its life is open to debate. With some imaginative lateral thinking it could still be used, ' Steer added. 'Why not clad it and make it an icon for Bristol? Wholesale demolition is not sustainable and that decision should not be made by people who think it ought to come down.' Ferguson is sticking to his guns and said: 'The building is past its sell-by date. It's an awful building and everybody thinks so. It's the first major building you see as you come in on the M32 - is that really good for the city? We all make mistakes and I'm not having a go at Stride Treglown but it was a child of its time.' Other buildings targeted by Ferguson include Westgate House in Newcastle and the St James shopping centre in Edinburgh.
'We, as architects, have to move on and we have to admit that we didn't always get it right, ' Ferguson added. 'We damage the profession by defending ourselves. Hurt feelings get mended but we have to live with buildings forever. This should be the motto in any practice.' l See Editorial, page 16.