From Alan Clawley.
It’s not a very exciting slogan but ‘making do’ is probably what we will all be doing more of given the almost universal slowdown in economic growth.
The signs can already be seen.
This week the Arts Council announced that it would stop funding ‘brash’ new arts buildings and put its money into renovation work and smaller projects. Could West Bromwich’s ‘Public’ arts centre and Walsall’s New Art Gallery belong to an era that has gone, never to return?
Interviewed in the architects’ weekly paper, ‘Building Design’, the Arts Council’s chief executive states, ‘I think it [the new policy] opens up exciting new opportunities for architects to work with existing buildings which could have a very significant impact’.
Friends of the Central Library need no prompting to agree with the Arts Council on this. The Friends are at the moment collecting projects that have been done on the possible refurbishment and re-use of the library building. These will be presented at a symposium in the New Year.
It’s not that the proposals recently published for a Culture Quarter in Birmingham’s Eastside are brash. Glenn Howells’s illustrations, if indeed they are his, could never be described as brash, but the buildings are mostly new and big. The authors do acknowledge, albeit rather tokenistically, the need to re-use the fine old Grade 1 Listed Curzon Street Station. Andy Foster has already expressed his misgivings about how this would affect its internal qualities.
When considering new uses for Madin’s Library in Paradise Circus, the Friends asked the curator of the Library’s photography collection whether a museum of photography in the former Library building would be a good idea. The reply came back that the new library in Centenary Square will be exhibiting the photograph collection and there was therefore no scope for keeping it in the old building. If this is the case it is hard to see how a photography gallery in Curzon Street Station would be any more viable than one in the Central Library. The size and shape of the Station building would restrict its scope; its location, well adrift of the City Centre, would face the same criticism that the Richard Rogers Library faced. Distance from the City Centre almost certainly limits the popularity of Millennium Point (in addition to the steep entrance charge).
Admittedly the scale of the new facilities along with the new station (if indeed it does happen) may generate a critical mass of visitors that would overcome these limitations, but at this stage it all looks quite a gamble.