Like Schouwburgplein in Rotterdam, Exchange Square is known as an "event space." The problem is that it only works when events are taking place. Its fancy paving, sweeping design statements and hidden water feature dress the square up, but leave the user with no place to go. Over-designed, inflexible, and dominated by rows of awkward sitwalls that impede pedestrian flow and gathering, this square should be exchanged for a place that actually displays a rudimentaty understanding of how people use public space. It masquerades as a civic square, but actually prevents this space from really evolving to celebrate the true richness and diversity of Manchester.Strange how CABE can find little fault with it. This is due, I suspect, to the fact that CABE tend to assess the abstract aesthetics of design, rather than how real people use and value real places and spaces. CABE is really little more than an onanistic out-branch of RIBA.
In Hadleigh in Suffolk, a small market town I know well, Tesco are proposing to build a truly awful supermarket that will kill the vibrant high street, dominate the clusters of intimate spaces that have grown organically for the best part of a thousand years, impose a ghastly Speer-esque footprint on a small scale and highly articulated street form and thrust something ugly and intrusive into one of Suffolk's loveliest spaces. You'd expect CABE to oppose all this, wouldn't you?
Not a bit of it. As Private Eye has documented, they praise the damn thing. So would you trust them to get an opinion right on anything?