Why can’t Coventry have nice things?
It’s a question asked time and time again, especially when nice things seem to be so easily taken away. The city gets so much flak and it’s best qualities are often overlooked, and sometimes wilfully crushed.
The impending City of Culture 2021 award is not for developers, big business or self-congratulation. It needs to, and will be, about citizens, their stories and the cultural landscape [figurative/imaginative] a tale that must be told.
It’s a really nice opportunity to celebrate so much of what makes Coventry great – especially for people who have never been there – this is a simple. One of the easiest ways to do this is to explore and promote existing architecture and natural spaces – the brilliance that is right under your nose. This process is already underway, which is grand.
Owen Hatherley has just written an article for the architectural design blog, Dezeen, in which he urges the city [Coventry City Council?] not to court developers for their own sake and to avoid destroying that which makes it unique [medivalism sat right next to Modernist and Brutalist buildings]
Add to this an embarrassing and continued white-washing of historical features because it is “too expensive” to maintain them – this has happened several times already – and lead to significant public outcry, even petitions – this shows how much people can love the little things that make a city what it is.
Having surveyed most of the UK across the length and breadth of several books and pieces of journalism, it’s fair to say that Hatherley knows what he’s on about. He also highlights repeat instances in which various sites and locations across the city centre have been placed on the at-risk register
Sure, not everyone will agree – the classic divisive argument about post-war architecture, especially Brutalism, is that it often looks very cool from a distance, but the people who celebrate it most are not the ones who have to live with [in] it. Especially when council’s started pulling the plug on maintenance, repairs and services – see Sheffield’s Park Hill failed experiment of “streets in the sky”. But these spaces always offer new possibilities to anyone willing to make the effort and get stuck in – use it or lose it – because when it’s gone it’s gone.
It would be encouaging to see more public debate and discussions around the architectural “progress” of Coventry, when so much of it to date seems to be a closed conversation between Coventry City Council, Coventry University and private developers.
Here’s to the Future – Tomorrow!