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Astragal: ‘There is barely a building in Birmingham that shouldn’t be demolished’

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Ex-transport minister and disparager of contemporary architecture John Hayes is at it again

Readers may remember his diatribe on the quality of modern British design during a speech on ‘beauty in transport’ two years ago.

At the time Hayes promised an end to the ‘Cult of Ugliness’ and claimed his mission was to ensure ‘beauty’ was at the heart of every new transport scheme.

At a Conservative Party Conference fringe event last week, Hayes went further still, saying architects had lost their sense of ‘harmony and rhythm’, leading to a collective failure to build towns and cities to be proud of.

‘In my opinion we have failed miserably,’ he told the audience, before laying into the conference’s host city and even the venue he was in at the time: Mecanoo’s 2014 Stirling Prize-shortlisted new Library of Birmingham.

‘There is barely a building in Birmingham that shouldn’t be demolished,’ he said at the event organised by independent think tank ResPublica. ‘This monstrosity that we are sat in is a perfect example. This is an appalling building. It is disharmonious. It is a disgrace.’

Hayes moaned on: ‘In every popular survey ever done on this subject, the public overwhelmingly prefer buildings built before the last war.’

He still wasn’t done, adding: ‘We have lost the plot. We have come to believe that utility, function is more important than form.’

Thankfully Hayes’s 2016 call to arms seemed to go precisely nowhere. There’s every likelihood this latest rant will too. 

Immortalised by Enya

Orinoco flow

Orinoco flow

Architects may not be familiar with the new chair of the RIBA’s British Architectural Trust Board, Rob Dickins, but he is a legendary figure in pop music.

As chairman of Warner Music UK in the 80s, Dickins turned the company into a huge success by signing artists such as Prince, Simply Red and Cher. 

You may even have heard his name before without realising it. Enya’s chart-topping single Orinoco Flow, with which he was closely involved, includes the line: ‘We can steer, we can near with Rob Dickins at the wheel.’ 

Those of a certain vintage should also visit YouTube to enjoy his 1988 appearance on the BBC’s Going Live, in which he explains that singles are actually pretty good value and ponders why Annie Lennox has not won any awards that year.

It’s hush-hush

Shutterstock mi6 building

Shutterstock mi6 building

Is the RIBA behaving like MI6? The AJ’s Will Hurst joked on Twitter that it was, as yet another council meeting took place with half of the agenda marked ‘Confidential’, and the press were sent scuttling back and forth from the meeting room. 

‘Come off it,’ RIBA president Ben Derbyshire huffed back, ‘We operate on the basis of a representative democracy, not that all discussion is open.’

But what’s this latest development from 66 Portland Place’s corridors of power? Oh, just the RIBA sailing ahead with plans to tighten its election rules, including handing the returning officer power to sanction candidates if they make allegations deemed ‘damaging to the RIBA’.

Fosters Lego recreation

Lego apple hq fabrizio costantini

Lego apple hq fabrizio costantini

Lego enthusiast Spencer Rezkalla has completed a project to recreate Foster + Partners’ California headquarters for technology giant Apple using the interconnecting plastic blocks (pictured above).

Rezkalla uploaded images of his 1:650 scale model of the iconic doughnut-shaped main building and surrounding campus last week. 

He said the building’s façade had been constructed using white and trans-black plates, the 760mm-diameter ring requiring 144 outer and 112 inner segments.

More than 85,000 bricks were used during the 27-month project – roughly half the time it took to build the real thing. 

Rezkalla has previously created Lego versions of the Eiffel Tower, Toronto’s CN Tower and Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.                           

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Mr Hayes is possibly wrong about the new library being a 'monstrosity' - but there's a good deal of truth about his criticism of Birmingham city centre.
    The current issue of 'Rail' magazine has a spread of aerial photos that don't leave much doubt about the rubbishy quality of much of the architecture - even allowing for the unprepossessing roof clutter that tends to adorn even the better buildings.

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