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Astragal: Slot machines on Hastings Pier win readers’ approval

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Alex de Rijke is beside himself after hearing that Hastings Borough Council has approved the introduction of slot machines on the town’s Stirling Prize-winning pier

His practice dRMM won the prize for its community-focused regeneration of the pier, which sought to eradicate such features.

‘Hastings Pier Visitor Centre was paid for by Heritage Lottery, whose criteria was that the building be used for education,’ he told the AJ. ‘Its conversion to slot machine arcades is inviting children to learn to gamble in the dark.’ 

But it’s not a view that strikes a chord with all of the AJ’s readers.

‘Good. The current pier is crap as there is nothing to do,’ commented Simon Armstrong. While Chris Medland added: ‘The 2p machines and seaside tradition of silly arcade games etc has been around since the Victorian times and architects risk coming across as patronising and aloof by suggesting that somehow a design is above such lowbrow culture.’ 

Hastings resident Philip Oakley, meanwhile, thought the real story was how Britain’s top architecture prize had gone to a building that went bust so quickly. ‘From the moment the pier reopened it was only a matter of time before it went bust because there was simply too few revenue streams to cover costs of something like £700k a year,’ he said, adding that ‘the internal spaces for education and community use remained largely unused as they don’t seem to fulfill any purpose outside of ticking a box on the lottery application form.’ 

While conceding that ‘the deck looks stunning’ he said that events set to be held on the pier were often cancelled due to adverse weather, and that a recent Pier Jam event ‘was cancelled due to strong winds when averaging around 10mph’. 

Garden Bridge’s Dedring to advise on infrastructure

Isabel dedring 2by3

Isabel dedring 2by3

Eyebrows have been raised by the inclusion of Arup’s global transport leader Isabel Dedring on a new design panel that will advise the National Infrastructure Commission.

The 10-strong panel, headed by dRMM founding director Sadie Morgan, also includes engineer Hanif Kara and urban designer Lucy Musgrave. But is Dedring an appropriate choice given her record concerning the Garden Bridge when she was London’s deputy mayor for transport?

Giving evidence to Margaret Hodge’s inquiry in 2016, Dedring claimed at least 12 times that she could not remember key details about the project. 

Of the Heatherwick and Arup procurements, she said she could recall little, adding: ‘I’ve never procured anything. I don’t know what you do.’ 

In her subsequent report, Hodge accepted that Dedring might have forgotten some of the details of her involvement with the procurement process but added: ‘From the trail of emails I have seen, her involvement was extensive.’

Hodge also pressed Dedring on who should have scrutinised constraints placed on the Garden Bridge Trust’s preconstruction spending in order to protect the public purse. Dedring replied: ‘Nobody really’, prompting Hodge to reply: ‘Jesus.’

Perhaps Dedring’s most lucid moment came when she told Hodge that she and her colleagues thought the Garden Bridge was ‘a crazy idea that would never happen’.

Man about the house

Restorativerural edmundsumner mk

Restorativerural edmundsumner mk

Big party horn-tooting props to Foster Lomas for winning the first ever RIBA award (in this case a North West regional) for a building on the Isle of Man.

As far as Astragal is aware, no other structure on the island tax haven has won a gong from the institute since it launched the prize system in the 1960s.

In fact the practice’s house at Sartfell, dubbed a Restorative Rural Retreat (pictured), bagged two awards, the other being the region’s sustainability prize. 

Speaking after the awards ceremony in Manchester last week, practice co-founder Will Foster said: ‘I never knew we had the weight of history against us to get this award.’ 

He added: ‘There are some very talented and smart people on the island. Maybe the quality of work exists, it’s just they don’t want to disclose it.’

And for those wondering, the final work by prolific Isle of Man one-time resident Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott came about 60 years before the RIBA awards started.

Greasy poll

Shutterstock tin mine wv

Shutterstock tin mine wv

And so to everyone’s favourite beleaguered design watchdog, where Create Streets chief Nicholas Boys Smith has replaced Roger Scruton as chair. 

Hardly a shock, as the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s central tenet seemed very close to Boys Smith’s own view – that the housing crisis exists because new development is ‘consistently, unambiguously and predictably unpopular with most of the public’. 

Architects hardly rolled out the red carpet for the new chair. ‘I have warned Nicholas Boys Smith against casting our profession as an obstacle to progress’, Ben Derbyshire announced sternly to Twitter, where @createstreets has 14,000 followers. 

In addition to this ticking off, Boys Smith is now being lampooned by a parody Twitter account, Creates Treats, which has begun mocking the lobby group’s trademark picture-based popularity polls. 


Has King Alfred scheme burnt its cakes?

When is a deadline not a deadline? When it is linked to Brexit, of course.

Back in January, Brighton & Hove City Council gave housebuilder Crest Nicholson until 30 March to commit to the 560-home King Alfred scheme – the long-awaited regeneration of the leisure centre site.

The idea was to end three years of dithering by giving the preferred developer – working with Haworth Tompkins – until the day after the UK left the EU to sign on the dotted line.

But then Brexit was put back seven months – creating a whole new pit of confusion for a saga that has previously involved the collapse of Frank Gehry’s controversial twisty tin-like proposals for the plot.

The council has now warned that as its deadline was missed, any development will now need to be approved at a fresh committee meeting, and says it is also ‘considering alternative delivery options’. 

Vagueness abounds. 

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