As a young architect and urban designer in the early 1980s, I used to work in an office on Great Portland Street. After a while Foster and Partners' office moved into the next building and occupied the ground floor. A series of huge full-length windows formed its facade on the street level. Suddenly it was very exciting to walk along the street looking in these windows and see people working inside, big models of projects displayed on the tables, large photographs of construction details enlarged a hundredfold. You could tell that people there were working on creating environments and you felt almost a part of that process.
One day, they had white Venetian blinds installed and the street elevation was blanked out. I was angry. Every lunch hour, I wanted to go in and tell them that they are supposed to be creating pleasant environments, yet they had turned the whole facade into a white blank wall. I was too shy so I never did. Now, seeing the proposal for Future System's Birmingham Selfridges, I want to shout 'Is this the best you can do?'
Is this blank textured wall all the practice can offer to Birmingham? Inspired by a dress? Can this building be stimulating, enriching, sensitive, inviting or even human? What could this building contribute to its setting and its people? This is an imposing, arrogant, intimidating and gimmicky building, which sits there like a sophisticated car park, dropped in by aliens to be used by robots.
Let's try to introduce fun to our environment but let's not confuse an architect's overall contribution to it with the creations of a fashion designer, which, with their much smaller limited use, scale and lifespan can be as weird or even offensive as they like.
Esi Cakmakcioglu, London, NW3