And the winner is…

My resident ‘architectural critic‘ interrupted my 23-hours-a-day slumbers with some attempt to contribute thoughts on the current debate about London’s Tower’s Policy, and the perceived reduction in design standards in order to rush through more and more development for the ultimate financial benefit of the developers. As a cat originating in London I was left wondering what experience this self-styled Zaha Hadid or Frank Lloyd Wright had to back-up their bold remonstrations on the built environment of one of the world’s mega-cities. “I lived there for nearly 22 years!” was the reply, offered may I add with deep indignation.

Touche, or 15-love to them… but, being a competitive kind of soul I decided to hit back with my usual languid laid back brand of sarcasm. It seems to me like we live in a world filled with competitions, yet you people of such delicate sensibilities need to have your liberal egos stroked, with everyone experiencing being a winner; or else needing to rush off to see your therapist. Or is that just California? So, in the interests of caustic architectural discourse, I decided to introduce Cardiff’s winners of the Juno Awards for Architectural Re-cycling (the Jar’s), as my meanders around the city suggested I might struggle to find any other category of award that could be liberally sprinkled around so many of the modern buildings.

So, getting down to the serious business of presenting the Jar’s… I had hoped to enlist the services of Cat Stephens but the calls to prayer were too many and too frequent; Atomic Kitten were fortunately too heavily regulated for public use; so I was left dragging myself off to the litter tray for an Eartha Kitt (yes, that is cockney rhyming slang). So once again it is left to me to say:

The Curvy but not Groovy Award goes to… 

Curvy not groovy

While the Use of Excess Leather Cladding Award goes to…

Central Library [1]

The Creative Use of an Over-Sized Spiky Hat Award goes to…

Spiky joint

But the judging panel (i.e. me) had a difficulty with the Use of Excess Bland Concrete Award, so in the interests of equality it was shared by several entries from the other side of the tracks…

Other side of the tracks

The Use of Excess Unintelligible Words in Strange Places Award was an easier category to adjudicate…

Millenium Centre 3

Meanwhile, the Getting to the Point (Retail Category) Award goes to…

John Lewis to the point

And this year there was a special category of ‘Life-Ending Achievement‘, sponsored by Lloyds Bank, entitled the Put It All On The Outside Scary Shit You Must Be Kidding If You Think I Am Going To Use That Lift Award, with the outright winner even adding the delicate touch of replacing internal staircases with external ladders…

Pointy Building

That is it from the red carpet for this year (stained in the blood of my resident ‘ex-Town Planner‘). Out of utter disrespect for the zeitgeisty need of people to feel unemotionally attached to millions of others through technology, all the winners will receive 5000 additional ‘faceache friends‘, and the runners-up get 2000 ‘pecks of the birdie thing‘. For everyone who comments on this post, may you be smothered in ‘likes‘ until you burst with the shear joy of connectivity. Until we speak again, I am Triumphant Juno saying the winner is…

When Meccano met Lego

My home-based ‘frustrated architect‘ was busy regaling the BBC4 programme ‘The Brits Who Built the Modern World‘ last week. “If you are so enamoured by modern architecture what are you doing in Cardiff?” I asked. But it did get me appreciating the convenience of an in-house laptop with private photo library. Do I really want to ruffle my fur braving hurricane force gales bouncing February inside out, just to check out the local definition of iconic?

The BBC4 programme included a few old but cool cats by the names of Foster, Rogers, Grimshaw, Farrell and Hopkins …. some even referencing their childhood love of meccano as an influence on their later design ethic:

So I started to ponder where the Lloyds of London and Pompidou Centre of Paris was to be found in the cultural capital of Wales… when my mind drifted towards the Bay. There across the water stood an iconic location…

Across Bay [1]

… but is it the under-use of meccano, or is it the introduction of a distracting lego vibe that causes so many first-time visitors to ask “what on earth is that supposed to be?”

St Davids Hotel [9]

St Davids Hotel [1]

In all honesty, the same has been asked of the Lloyds & Pompidou buildings in their time, but I await with baited breath the remaining two episodes of the BBC4 programme to see if they spend any time reflecting on the architectural majesty of Cardiff Bay!

St Davids Hotel [2]

5-star accommodation is usually based on the luxury of the living space, but for those who can’t afford it (or access the necessary business account) the external aesthetic is what counts if locals are to take pride in their architectural icons.

St Davids Hotel [5]

But, perhaps the St. David’s Hotel on the Bay has more to offer if we take more than a churlish glance… how about an outdoor meeting with a view, or the curviliciousness that is less noticeable when the building is viewed from a distance?

St Davids Hotel [3]

St Davids Hotel [4]

Perhaps the hotel entrance and internal atrium offers further redemption, particularly for the internal decorators amongst you…

The restaurant may not offer value-for-money to the aficionados of Caroline Street style, but it may offer the ideal place for those who splash out on the special occasion; and those who can afford a loyalty card to place next to their Government/Banking membership cards. My ‘resident banker‘ went there over 10 years ago and tells me it suited the bill for a special family occasion, particularly with views out across the Bay while you eat. But it is up against a wide range of competition in the local area for all budgets.

Either way, it seems to a mere cat like me (no, not a meerkat!) that this architecture game is a bit like any other design or fashion based affair… you likes what you likes, and whatever reasons I have for my personal taste, no amount of reasoning will persuade the luddites who don’t agree with me! As for the definition of ‘iconic’ in local architectural terms, my guess is you will have to look to some of the older gaffs… watch this space for more lessons in the finer points of bricks and mortar, glass and steel, and the minutiae of what passes for design. Until we speak again I will sharpen my ‘Le Corbusier Juno’ persona.

[Images of Lloyds of London & Pompidou Centre, and a few of St. David’s Hotel are gratefully borrowed from google images to illustrate a point.]