It is all very well for Ed Dorrell and Penny Lewis to dislike the retail box we have designed for our clients at Cumbernauld (AJ 20.04.06), but no matter the aesthetics of the building, it would not in itself have cured all the ills of the town centre. Ever since Healy and Baker's masterplanning studies of the late 1970s de-ned the problems with infrastructure and built form, ideas for remedial action in Cumbernauld have come and gone, most recently from the Demolition programme contributors. Commentators often infer that architecture is about celebrity designers going round solving problems with grand statements, but socially inclusive, sustainable and economically practical solutions are, in reality, much more dif-cult to achieve.
Demolition cited Birmingham as an example of how a city centre could regain its sense of place and style. Our own scheme in Dundee replaced the city's nasty 1960s Overgate Centre and created an attractive civic space centred around an old church.
However, these cities had the real advantage of a historic fabric to knit back into during regeneration. Cumbernauld town centre never had an acceptable sense of place or style. It was modelled on an Italian hill town - but clearly Scotland does not have Italy's climate. Enclosed shopping malls are a more practical model in this instance.
The retail offer has been eroded over recent years and, like all new town centres in Scotland, currently needs to be refreshed. The Antonine Centre was designed to link into future development of the centre, and the renewed commercial con-dence it brings allows the main owner of the centre to consider a more radical redevelopment masterplan. A quick, magic-wand solution is unlikely, but there will be no shortage of 'architecture talent' on the case, nor critics on the sidelines.
TD Stark, managing director, Keppie Design