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Astragal: Lifeboats at the ready at Mecanoo’s Birmingham library

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As the UK is battered by deluge after deluge, the best remedy is to take refuge indoors with a good book. Though maybe not in Mecanoo’s Stirling Prize-nominated Library of Birmingham, where the rampant precipitation has been causing problems

The £189 million flagship building houses treasures such as Shakespeare’s First Folio and John James Audubon’s Birds of America – worth between £6 million and £7 million each. 

But the 2013 building appears to be letting in water. After one particularly bad downpour, a regular visitor described how an area of level 2 was ‘all covered in buckets and restricted areas’, with books covered in plastic to protect them and the lower ground floor section flooded and the rooftop gardens closed off. 

Responding to queries, the city council said: ‘Like many parts of the country we have experienced exceptionally heavy rain over the past week which, like in other areas, presented some challenges.’ 

A sump pump had broken on the lower ground and some of the rainfall had also overflowed on the third-floor terrace and ‘made its way down’ to floor two. 

But the council poured cold water on any suggestion there was a major problem, insisting it was a maintenance issue and the plastic was just a ‘precaution’. 

Mecanoo, meanwhile, has been keeping silent. Sssh, it is a library after all.

Take your brains to another dimension 

Shutterstock esther mcvey crop

Shutterstock esther mcvey crop

We may have had approximately 320 different housing ministers in the last decade but never let it be said this has adversely affected the quality of officeholders.

Indeed, current incumbent Esther McVey demonstrated a firm grasp of her brief at last week’s Tory conference, speaking about the ‘new methods’ of housebuilding.

‘We have this new way of doing it – 3D architects, 3D visionaries – doing it … on a computer,’ she told delegates. 

Could this really be true? That architects are designing in 3D? And on computers? The Twittersphere seemed, on balance, to think it was the case, with one Kendy Crush wryly making the point that 52-year-old McVey was 15 when AutoCAD was first released. 

Queer eye for the AJ

Shutterstock bobby berk crop

Shutterstock bobby berk crop

As the AJ continues to attract new followers across all platforms, Astragal was pleased to discover this week that among the 80,000+ AJ Instagram adherents is none other than arguably the world’s most famous interior designer and certainly TV’s hardest working one: Bobby Berk (pictured) of Queer Eye

Not only is Berk’s own firm ‘a design leader in the home building industry’, he has 2.5 million Insta-followers of his own, but only follows 1,500. We’ll try not to let it go to our heads.

Bringing the X factor to Brighton

Continuing a celebrity theme, news comes that Simon Cowell – he of the high-waisted bootleg jean (and TV show of yesteryear, The X Factor) – has been named founding patron of Design Brighton, a new festival aiming to celebrate urban design and ‘play a positive part in the rejuvenation of the region’. 

Cowell’s family hails from Ovingdean, a village near Brighton and, perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘property is close to their heart’. But it turns out this perplexing alliance is more mundane. Simon’s half-brother John is a co-founder of the festival and runs a property development and construction industry consultancy in the South East. 

For John’s sake let’s hope Simon can bring the X factor to Design Brighton.

Council backing for Trump’s Aberdeen project 

Councillors in northern Scotland have approved Trump Estate plans drawn up by Covell Matthews to build 500 homes and 50 resort lodgings for the golf firm run by the US president’s family.

Aberdeenshire Council approved Trump International Golf Links’ application for the Menie Estate, which also includes shops and other facilities.

A decade ago Donald Trump said he would spend £1 billion on the estate, creating 6,000 jobs along with two golf courses, houses and a 450-room hotel.

But several elements of the scheme – originally masterplanned by Gareth Hoskins Architects – were put on hold in 2012 following a row over an offshore wind farm in Aberdeen Bay, which Trump said would ruin views.

However Trump’s son Eric last year said the housing scheme could start on site in 2019. Reports of a border wall along the A90 have yet to be confirmed.

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