Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Glasgow School of Art - some new thinking

Steven Holl's new building (right) makes the Mackintosh building look ancient, small and horrible
You know, sometimes the most obvious things in the world escape people because they are blinded by history, tradition and habit. Two of my fans wrote to me last week suggesting that I should write a review of the proposed new building for Glasgow School of Art. As you can imagine, I was delighted that my expert view on this matter was sought but at the same time, I was horrified to uncover the real truth of what is happening on Garterhill and the sloppy thinking that has dogged the project so far.
a view of the fantastic interior of Holl's building
So last night I settled down to write this post while listening to a cassette tape of The Lark Ascending by one of my favourite German composers, Ralph Von Williams - marvellous stuff! First of all some basics. The proposal will be constructed on the site of two wonderful buildings by Keppie Henderson and Partners - the Newbery Tower and the Foulis Building. I'm trying not to show bias here - as you all know, Keppies is an all time favourite of mine - but it is quite ridiculous to contemplate the demolition of these fine structures, especially when an older building across the street is apparently to be kept.

Now I've heard all about Mackintosh - in fact I always carry one of his raincoats in my briefcase - but he should not be regarded with any respect. After all he slunk off from Scotland to work in England for a bit, then went to France to do a bit of painting and decorating - so he was effectively a tax exile!
another view of Holl's big building with the old ruin in the background
The Art School needs more space - that seems clear. Doubtless they also need space for student parking and that sort of thing. I wonder if they have thought of moving to a greenfield site or perhaps a business park where there is plentiful parking? Probably not because they are wedded to that old wreck of a building on Garterhill. But such a plan would release their multiple sites in the area for more profitable uses and the dynamic Scottish property development industry would welcome such a proposal.
a sketch by Steven Holl showing the antiquated Art School on the left and his contemporary proposal on the right - fantastic!
Now in relation to the proposed new building I must say I like it! It has presence and it is strikingly contemporary and large, towering over its insignificant neighbour across the street but, and that is a big but, it is facing the wrong way! The obvious answer is to demolish the Mackintosh building, keep the far superior Keppie buildings and build the Stephen Hall building on the site of the old Art School. Job done - problem solved.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Enemies of Enterprise

Cameron and Cable attack planning - courtesy of www.planningresource.co.uk
You know, I was trembling with excitement when I read the latest discussions about the planning system in England in Planning this week - apologies if you can't access this because you are not an expert planner like me! Down south, planning is regarded as being a major barrier to economic expansion. It's just what I have been saying for a few years now and of course, much of this free-range thinking has been adopted in Scotland for some time now with major developments like Edinburgh's Garden District getting the nod from the Scottish Government without a planning application even being submitted. Fantastic!

The Tory Vince Cable said, "I hear countless stories of perfectly reasonable developments being thwarted by bizarre planning rules. We want the standard answer to be yes - not no". Well actually the standard answer is yes or yes..subject to and sometimes no so that shows how much he knows. And on the same day, Cable also implied that the planning system was a major contributory factor to the recession down south. Nothing to do with the banks at all! Nothing to do with lack of borrowing opportunities! Just planning holding everything back. And last weekend while I was writing about MIPIM and wondering why my daffodils hadn't come up, David Cameron was talking about the "town hall officials who take forever with those planning decisions that can be make or break for a business" - they are among the "enemies of enterprise" who must be identified and destroyed.

Now you and I know this is just political posturing - but at the same time, the writing is on the wall for many of these enemies of enterprise - we see enough of them here in Auchterness! Let's think about the Enemies of Enterprise in Scotland - in fact, let's make a list:

  • local government officers who spend more time reading the Sun and drinking Irn Bru at their desks than dealing with planning applications
  • planning officials who refuse to take brown envelopes and holidays abroad as part of the Planning Gain agreements
  • development management staff who turn down invitations from developers to accompany them to lap dancing clubs
  • community activists who have issues around personal hygiene or who wear sandals and grey corduroy trousers
  • overweight women in brightly coloured cardigans who shout at developers during public meetings
  • noisy children carrying placards and dropping litter
  • anyone from Newton Mearns (the middle class slum near Glasgow)

These people represent a small proportion of the population yet they have a disproportionately negative effect on business, enterprise and property development - in fact they are clearly destroying the country. I have identified them - who will take them on?

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Scotland - no money for a good time at MIPIM

some of the fantastic attractions at MIPIM - courtesy of the Budapest Business Region website
You know, at this time of year when the sap is rising and a healthy young man's thoughts turn to property development (and other things), it is just as well that MIPIM 2011 is just round the corner. After a long hard winter of doing deals, flattening historic buildings, devastating greenbelt and building masses of breeding boxes for the plebs or shiny new business parks for the plutocracy, it's natural that the property development industry should look to shake the dust from its portfolios and head for the sun.
another fantastic attraction at MIPIM courtesy of Corporate Club International
Now for you ignoramuses out there, MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels d'Immobilier) is the world's greatest trade show for international property development and takes place annually in Cannes, attracting almost 20,000 participants from almost 70 countries. In reality it is one big party! Of course I'm sure that some deals are done and doubtless some servant architects will make connections with new clients and hope that they win a big job. But for most it is allegedly about drink, drugs and sex.
yet another of the fantastic attractions at MIPIM - who wouldn't want to go?  Courtesy of Luxury Insider Magazine
There is an interesting article in the Sunday Herald today (not online) about Scotland's non-attendance at MIPIM this year. There will be no official representation by Government, public agencies like the beleaguered Scottish Enterprise or Councils - with the exception of Edinburgh who are going of course. Also some Scottish firms will definitely be there as the lure of those scantily clad Russian maidens plying their wares is too strong to keep young property folk in Scotland during a dull overcast March.
yet another of the fantastic attractions at MIPIM - who wouldn't want to go?  Courtesy of Luxury Insider Magazine
So perhaps the message has got through to public agencies about the alleged orgies and drunken capering at MIPIM. On one hand it is a national disgrace that Scotland is not represented on the Riviera. On the other hand, some say that it is not always easy to point to an instant return from such an event - well try telling that to the well known property executive who needed a course of injections when he came home or the prominent local government officer whose wife found some unusual female under-garments in his suitcase on returning home. I've never been to MIPIM unfortunately so I wouldn't know - but I would leap at the opportunity of course! Scottish Enterprise says that 'restricted budget availability' is the reason for their non-appearance. Maybe they are just not up to it anymore!