Today, Westfield completed two days of 'consultation' with the local community. The exhibition in the Midland hotel was perfunctory, but less than inspiring. The new plans are not exciting, but are not an insult. The new scheme is, after all, a shopping centre, not a piece of great architecture.
There is no plan to woo local Muslim businesses, there is no plan to provide multicultural/multifaith space, there are no facilities for young people, there are no green spaces at all. Simply put - it is architecture that does not provide for community.
Nevertheless, when the first bit of work begins, we will need to applaud it, we will probably need to get behind it. There are too many people out of work in this city to knock the only decent chance of improving their prospects.
Yet I think of a shopping centre in Hungary, where instead of a carpark, on the roof was a great garden and children's play space. It is a place I always go back to and it is the most popular shopping centre in Budapest. Why is it not possible to think creatively with our shopping centres?
Neil McClure from Westfield admitted that the timescale of 'work starting in a year' (T&A local paper) maybe a little optimistic. This is not, after all, a happy time for shop retailers. Maybe we can enjoy our urban garden for a few more years before the walls begin to go up.
I'm torn by it all. So, what did you think of the Westfield exhibition?
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