Eric Kuhne, architect of the massive Bluewater shopping centre, is planning to unroll his ideas in towns across the uk, with a scheme under construction in Solihull, and proposals for Milton Keynes and Norwich: 'All the ideas at Bluewater are based on town-planning principles and on the resort and hospitality industry,' he told the aj.
Commenting on the new schemes, he said: 'We will be putting something back into a city. That is the test of whether these ideals have any relevance to Europe. There are hundreds of town centres that need the same amount of care.'
He added: 'We have discovered something about retail. Commerce is what brings civic spaces to life. All great public plazas are built around a market.'
The crucial elements for creating a successful regional or national centre are, Kuhne believes, having both a leisure and a cultural component to the scheme, created through a sense of place (at Solihull this is based on the Arts and Crafts movement and the ideas of Ebenezer Howard).
In Solihull, Lendlease, the client for Bluewater, has put together a retail fund syndicate, and Kuhne is working with bdg McColl as executive architect. His scheme, which slots in behind an existing depressed high street, keeps some of the better buildings, and also relates to an existing church and public library. It aims, says Kuhne, to take 'the intimacy of a traditional arcade', but with shops 40-45m deep.
The scheme, which uses brick polychromy and cabinet display windows, has seven entrances, each of a different character. Most of the parking is below ground, servicing is on the roof, and shops are on two levels. At 50,000m2 the scheme, called Touchwood, is one third the size of Bluewater. It will open in September 2001.
At Milton Keynes, Kuhne is working with Lendlease again, with the town and with Prudential to masterplan 'the next generation of civic experience'. The town, he says, has 'no civic space at all.' His proposals will link up with the new theatre and art gallery by Blonski Heard Architects; and at Norwich he is working on another regional shopping centre.