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Astragal: Shark man’s final wish

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Raise a glass to the memory of Bill Heine, the journalist and businessman who infuriated Oxford planners by installing a 25ft shark on his roof and fought a six-year battle to keep it there

Heine, who has died aged 74, craned the giant fibreglass fish onto his redbrick terraced house to make it look as if it had crashed straight out of the sky. It was a protest against the American bombing of Libya, but also because he ‘liked sharks’.

Oxford City Council famously rejected Heine’s retrospective planning application for the sculpture, but he appealed to the environment secretary, then Michael Heseltine. The planning inspector’s final ruling – in favour of keeping the shark – has become the stuff of legend. ‘The council is understandably concerned about precedent here. The first concern is simple: proliferation of sharks (and heaven knows what else) crashing through roofs all over the city. This fear is exaggerated. In the five years since the shark was erected, no other examples have occurred … I therefore recommend that the Headington Shark be allowed to remain.’ 

In a final twist, the same council that feared its skyline would come under siege by falling marine creatures is now mulling Heine’s last wish: an Asset of Community Value listing to protect his landmark fish.

Coal Drops Yard challenges endless consumption

Coal drops yard

Coal drops yard

Heatherwick Studio’s Coal Drops Yard was designed as a true ‘shopping street for London’, an anti-mall where upmarket chains like Cos and Fred Perry rub shoulders with independent boutiques. 

Yet according to a report by the AJ’s sister title, Drapers, it’s a ‘dream that’s not materialised’. The King’s Cross complex is struggling to attract footfall. ‘You’d be horrified at the customer numbers,’ one retailer told the fashion magazine.

In response, developer Argent said it was working with retailers to improve footfall and recent research had shown one in three Londoners is ‘aware of Coal Drops Yard’. 

So why aren’t they coming? Perhaps it is something to do with Coal Drops Yard’s own website, which boldly states it is ‘challenging the trend of faceless, endless, mass supply and demand by redefining what “consumption” means.’ With some shops seeing a ‘pretty bleak’ eight punters a day, it seems to have designed consumption right out of existence. Everyone’s in Westfield.

Marr still hand in glove with Manchester Modernism

Flat3 2 copy

Flat3 2 copy

As AJ readers will know, ex-Smiths legend Johnny Marr loves his Brutalist architecture.

Four years ago, on becoming a new patron of Manchester’s Modernist Society, he shared his candid thoughts in these pages on his love for post-war concrete, famously declaring: ‘Most of the new houses I’ve seen look shit.’ His words were warmly welcomed by architects, especially those nostalgic for the 1960s.

Now the songwriter (he once penned a tune about a love affair with a building) is hoping to pique the profession’s interest and to get them to open their wallets for a new architectural venture.

In a new video Marr urges support for a crowd-funding appeal to raise more than £15,000 towards the Modernist Society’s permanent new home in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The new space, which is scheduled to open in May, will include an office, exhibition space and ‘modernist shop’. Shoplifters of the World are barred, Astragal expects.

According to the society’s co-founders Jack Hale and Eddy Rhead it could become Europe’s first dedicated exhibition space for all things Modernist. 

Rhead said: ‘Since CUBE closed there hasn’t really been a dedicated space for architecture in Manchester. It doesn’t look like anyone else is going to do it, so we decided to bite the bullet and do it ourselves.’

Bridging loan

Concerning news from Hammersmith Bridge, which has closed ‘indefinitely’ on safety grounds. It seems Transport for London needs to find £42 million for repairs, but its pockets are bare. If only, as the Twitter-archi were quick to point out, there were some equivalent sum of taxpayers’ cash that could be put towards it …

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Readers' comments (1)

  • So, Heatherwick having been given carte blanche to make a mockery of grade 2 listed buildings on the altar of retail, the worshippers are proving to be thin on the ground?
    Perhaps someone will yet restore the dignity of these buildings and find worthwhile uses for them.

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