Friday, 8 July 2011

Tesco and CABE eat dirt

The idiots who were at CABE, now facing merger with the Design Council, will not have gone away. It was CABE, The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, who opined favourably on the buildings that people hate. The US-based Project for Public Spaces has condemned many of the structures praised by CABE; every time you endure a walk past a blank monolithic windswept ground floor elevation, it's probably a building loved by CABE and loathed by PPS. The difference is that CABE values the abstract aesthetics of modernist design, whilst PPS values spaces that people find joy in using. Frequently the two are irreconcilable. Here's how PPS described Exchange Square in Manchester, a public space much loved and vaunted by CABE:
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.
So it was no surprise that CABE strongly supported the construction of a hideous and massive Tesco store in the heart of one of Suffolk's most congruent little market towns, praising it's bullying and domineering design. CABE hate anything like a 600-year old high street that has grown organically, and without the intervention of some fashionable Hamburg architect. 

Well, both Tesco and CABE can now eat dirt. Planning consent for the Tesco invasion has been refused. Hadleigh is breathing a sigh of relief today, and another nail has just been driven in the coffin of these useless metrolingual design aesthetes. 


Weekend Yachtsman said...

Planning consent may have been refused for now, but if you think they won't be back for another bite, you are naive.

Anonymous said...

@ Weekend Yachtsman - again we agree! (we must both like boats or something?).

Tesco will not just roll over. They lost by just one vote and it doesn't take much money to buy two votes. Those bastards at Macdonalds did this in my hitoric city of Chester. Having had PP refused twice to build a hideous red and yellow carbuncle next to the town hall, they somehow got it on the third application. That brings the total of Macdonalds in Chester to three! I wonder who they paid?

In Chester, we have a historic street (actually we have loads of historic streets) called Frodsham Street. In the 60's it was an old but vibrant shopping area. Then Tesco put up a modern brick building with concrete car park which just destroyed the street. So what will you find on Frodsham Street today? Two pawn brokers, three bookies, two "pound shops" an array of ugly charity shops, a Yates Winelodge and a seedy nightclub - need I say more?

Having a Tesco in, or near, the centre of your town is like having a huge tree in the middle of a small cottage garden. It sucks up all the goodness in the soil, it takes the light away and crowds out all the other pretty plants and flowers to destruction.

The French know this (and I know France) and they plan, approve and construct accordingly. Near our other home in the south of France (and this is the same for other towns and villages) there is a gigantic Carrefour - but you have to drive 10km to get to it, which is a good thing. Everything that you want is available locally. "The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker". Moreover, it makes it one of lifes pleasures to go out for the paper and some freshly baked baguettes or croissants and stop off for a coffee on the way. France consistently features in the top three of best lifestyle countries to live in - and you do not need a friggin' Tesco on your doorstep to achieve that status.

Coney Island

Edward Spalton said...

Send for the Prince of Wales!

It's one thing he seems quite good at.

outsider said...

Tesco seems pretty determined to increase its density of coverage in Suffolk. An isolated Tesco Express is opening in Southwold and a full store is planned for tiny, narrow-roaded Leiston, unfortunately at the opposite end to the rest of the shops. In both cases, the Co-op will be the main initial loser, but in Leiston the local butcher and baker will not stand much chance either. Tesco will do good business. Even in the isolated sailing village of Orford, a visitor just asked me where the Tesco was.