My question of the week is this: Just what did TV architect George Clarke expect to see from the banks of the River Wear?
Sydney Opera House, perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across Panns Bank? *
The host Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces felt forced to stick his social media oar into the development plans on the old Vaux brewery site in Sunderland last week.
His rant began positively enough when he said: “Great news that progress is finally being made on the old Vaux Brewery site in Sunderland, but...”
Ah, the loaded ‘but’.
He continued: “But is this really the best masterplan they could come up with for such a prime and important site?
Mr Clarke ended his tirade with the killer line: “Very poor urban design solution and a wasted opportunity.”
And with that, he disappeared up his own backside.
I’ve no problem with celebrities having their say, but c’mon George pick your battles.
For those who don’t know, the old Vaux brewery site is at the entrance to the city and has lain derelict for approaching two decades.
After years of wrangling, too detailed to go into here, plans have been drawn up for a £100m development to include shops, cafes, office space and even a restaurant set into the cliff face overlooking the River Wear.
I’m no architect, but the artist’s impressions of the site are a million times better than the car parks, gravel and weeds on there at the moment.
Not in George’s eyes. And he let his 109,000 Twitter and 27,000 Instagram followers know. I can’t help thinking that Twitter is perhaps not the best medium by which to solve complex design problems. At 140 characters, there’s a limit to what advice you can give.
Could he expand on the issue? He hasn’t yet. Though one follower did ask why he didn’t get involved in the Vaux design work. “I would have been very happy to help,” he said, “had I been asked.”
Give me a break. If you’re so concerned about this development in your home city then why, in the last 17 years, haven’t you piped up and offered your services?
Like me, perhaps developer Siglion thought you were too busy gawping at over-engineered garden sheds to bother with your home town.
For the record, Siglion have also not asked Sir Norman Foster to design the restaurant or Damien Hirst to knock up a few daubs for the cafe walls or Jeremy Clarkson to give their company cars the once-over. For the simple reason, it’s not how things work in the real world.
Hat’s off to Siglion boss John Seager who gently lobbed the loaded tennis ball back into George’s court by pointing out that the designs are not set in stone and his input would be most welcome.
And Clarke’s response? Absolute silence.
Although ... this is his latest tweet on his home town.
“Sunderland have 2 points from a possible 30 so far this season. Not good enough.”
Maybe George is after the Sunderland job. If so, we know what he’d do. Get Lionel Messi to play for Sunderland… you only have to ask.
(* Apologies to John Cleese for tweaking his Fawlty Towers quote about the view from a Torquay window).