Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Scottish Borders Council Farce

Scottish Housebuilding at its finest - what's the problem?
You know, I was enraged the other day to read about the decision of Scottish Borders Council to refuse permission for a striking new development by Springfield Homes on design grounds. If you look at this great image above, you will see just how fabulous new homes really are in Scotland. So what's the problem and what do folk who work for one of Scotland's most forgettable Councils know about design? A bunch of paper pushing bureaucrats, grey men in suits and fat women! If they don't watch out, they will find themselves being reorganised in the near future!

Now to be honest, I haven't seen the plans of this marvellous new development but, as an expert planner, I can tell you that it will be as good as any other volume builder housing development - in other words, completely excellent in every way especially with regard to design.
the fabulous headquarters of Stewart Milne Homes at Westhill,Aberdeen
And talking about excellent housebuilding, I happened to drive past Wee Stewartie Milne's fabulous company headquarters near Aberdeen the other day. It's just off Enterprise Drive - what an appropriate street name! I felt the electricity in the air - that buzz of Enterprise and Deal Making! The warm ether of human values and the big metaphorical cuddle of care for people simply looking for a place to stay - a place to call their own home. I felt myself stimulated beyond measure - the fuel gauge on my dashboard said FULL! I was sweating profusely and my shirt and trousers were stained with dampness - my throat was dry as I shouted, "Come and get me! I'm your man! Give me a job you wonderful Tory Housebuilders! Humiliate me and lock me in your basement!" Well by the time I got home I was exhausted. That's what passion does to a man and that's what's lacking in Scottish Borders Council. It's also what makes Wee Stewartie Milne and Scotland's other great housebuilders so fecund.

I was intrigued today by this non-story in the centrist London Rag The Guardian about house builders lobbying the Government. You can be sure that Scotland's great house builders were part of this lobbying exercise which seems to have been successful of course. Say what you like about the Tories - we all hate them up here but they always help out their rich friends while identifying the Enemies of Enterprise - like Scottish Borders Council - which is most definitely not open for business.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The White Worm of Union Terrace, Aberdeen

the Big White Worm interior - full of lay-abouts and sheep-shaggers
You know, I found myself standing fully to attention the other day when I saw the first pictures and read the amazing news about the Big White Worm proposed for Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen. Now it isn't clear if this scheme has been selected by the imperious Sir Ian Wood - the business and cultural primate of the entire city - or if this is the design option that has had the public literally screaming for more at the exhibition of proposals. Or both!
a Christmas scene for Aberdeen's ignorati
But wait! Wasn't the whole idea to fill in the derelict gardens, sweeping away opportunities for sordid bestiality and gay pick-up points in bushes before you could say 'multi-storey car park'? I certainly thought so but this design doesn't seem to do that. I'm not impressed by the Christmas Card graphics either - a sugary image aimed at the ignorati of the city. It's true that you have to discipline yourself (as I do every evening) to look beyond the graphics and although the Big White Worm may have got saliva running in Aberdeen, it is a false dawn - believe me. What is required here is a sunken shopping centre beneath a large paved park - a bit like Red Square built over the gorgeous Braehead shopping centre. That's what Sir Ian has in mind I'm sure.
the obvious answer
But we will have to wait for a few days yet while the great minds figure out how best to ignore an entirely ignorant public and proceed with the scheme they wanted all along. Personally I thought that the original Halliday Fraser Munro scheme was a work of true genius but better minds than mine decided that a competition was necessary - so be it! I was delighted to read that Wee Fat Alex Salmond has promised £70 million to keep this brilliant initiative on target - and in so doing, has dashed the chances of a bunch of no hope projects in Central Scotland where there is simply no drive, vision or economy for that matter - apart from the fabulous work by those clever folk at Glasgow Harbour, Strathclyde Passenger Transport and Forth Ports who will always tick my boxes.
the dismal white worm again
As I've said many times before, we should all entrust ourselves to people who have money, power and vision. In so doing, we will bring success and riches on ourselves and make Aberdeen not only the powerhouse of Scotland but the economic power station of Europe - if not the world. Let's get on with this great project!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The shame of the Kelpies

the Kelpies by cliche artist Andy Scott - each head will contain a public toilet - male on the left, female on the right - photo by Graeme Gilmour
You know, a fan of mine alerted me today through a social media network of which I am a privileged member to a new competition organised by that great institution, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS). They have been commissioned by Falkirk Council to select a multi-disciplinary team to design the internal space within a giant sculpture of a horse’s head. The structure will be set within one of two horses head sculptures, ‘The Kelpies’, designed by dreadful cliché artist and millionaire Andy Scott who you would be forgiven for thinking is Scotland's only public artist or sculptor. Yes every public art installation will look the same - just like in the good old Soviet Union. He is also a judge in the competition so everything is going well for him.

The competition also seeks the design of a complementary visitor hub on the same site - I think they mean a public toilet. When I read this I immediately thought that Keppies would be the obvious choice for this work and I hope they will be entering the competition along with Halliday Fraser Munro and ADF, all of whom are highly talented thought-leaders in the field of public toilet provision especially in the green belt.

Although this sounds fine, I have to question the basis of this work and the need to have these awful sculptures lying about in a field in the first place. Is it only me that sees them as a waste of public money at a time when we all live in fear of our jobs? Scotland is a great wee country you know but it is sadly prone to these outbreaks of stupidity.
Leader of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson
What we need is for someone to come out and say that this is rubbish instead of everyone nodding and agreeing to punt Andy Scott yet another fat fee. Perhaps Ruth Davidson, our gorgeous new leader of the Scottish Tories has a few words to say? She looks like a woman who has her scones in the oven. I will never vote Tory - and neither will anyone else I know - but condemnation from her would be like warm milk in my ears. This nonsense has to stop now!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Fantastic happenings at Glasgow Harbour

the fantastic Beith Street development proposal
You know, with more and more fantastic commercial developments smashing their way through through the misguided hopes and aspirations of inbred conservation minded communities across Scotland - all with the support of a new wave of market orientated neoliberal local councils - it is hard for me to single out specific instances of excellence. There are just so many fantastic developments around that I am genuinely spoiled for choice.
plan of the amazing Beith Street development
But there are some exceptional things happening and it didn't take me long to identify those apron-wearing masters of the compass and square, ADF and Glasgow Harbour Ltd, as the authors of an astonishingly bold proposal for Beith Street in Glasgow. They've lodged a grand planning application which brilliantly challenges established concepts of what good design should look like. Those new blocks marching down to the river excite me enormously! When I first saw it I jumped out of my seat and hit my head on my reading lamp. The scheme is described here (http://www.ads.org.uk/designreview/reports/beith-street) by the bankrupt and secretive organisation known as A+DS who called it in for Design Review but couldn't find enough cliches to praise it.
the brilliant tactical genius and head of Glasgow Harbour, Sir Euan Jamieson
I must say that Glasgow Harbour has always been one of my all-time favourite developments and the brilliant genius in charge, Sir Euan Jamieson, is clearly a man of culture, intense vision, intellectual might and overwhelming good taste. You know, it would be great if he could bring some of his style and panache to the rest of Scotland. Can you imagine what would happen if he joined forces with Dr Donald Trump and Sir Ian Woods? The possibilities are endless and amazing! The opportunity is there to finish off Scotland's faceless culture of local authority planning once and for all, substituting it with a dynamic market led blitzkrieg and scorched earth policy of wall-to-wall Tesco and Stewart Milne-like developments that will make our wee country a world leader in town planning, hopefully with me at the helm once wee Jimmy Mackinnon retires!