2005-11-16

Intolerance: Ugly Capital Buildings To Be Protected

One of Edinburgh's most contentious buildings has been proposed for an 'A-listing' by 'Historic Scotland'. 'The David Hume Tower', designed by Mr.Robert Matthew, is among a collection of Fifties and Sixties university buildings earmarked for preservation. 'The George Square Library', designed by Sir.Basil Spence, has also been recommended for an 'A-listing', which would mean it must be preserved for future generations and could not be demolished. The proposal will reopen old wounds among conservationists who remember the battle to preserve the Georgian buildings that stood on the same spot. The arts impresario Mr.Richard Demarco, who was a friend of both Mr.Matthew and Mr.Spence, said the buildings were 'the worst of modernism' and the notion of preserving them was 'absurd'. He said none of the buildings around George Square was a good example of modernist architecture and the design was discontinuous with the area. Mr.Demarco said:
'It is a windswept, uncaring, inhuman environment, and when I think of what had to be destroyed to build these totally pedestrian buildings I can't forgive them.
'They represent the failure of Fifties and Sixties architecture, and I can't believe they are going to be protected.
'They ruin the view of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat.'
Historic Scotland proposes 'A' and 'B listings' for eight buildings, including 'The Pollock Halls', 'The University Sports Centre', 'The Adam Ferguson Building' and 'The William Robertson Building'. It emerged that 'Historic Scotland' originally also suggested listing the unpopular 'Appleton Tower', which students campaigned to be recognised by 'Channel 4 TV'as 'Britain's ugliest building'. Opposition from the heritage watchdog 'The Cockburn Association', among others, prevented the Sixties tower block from being recognised as worthy of preservation. When the university developed the George Square site in the 1960s a huge swathe of Georgian Edinburgh was demolished, leading to accusations of cultural vandalism and megalomania. Mr.Terry Leventhal, the director of 'The Scottish Civic Trust', said:
'I think it will be a controversial proposal. 'Personally speaking, "The David Hume Tower" is not one of my favourite buildings. 'I don't like what it does to the townscape. 'It is quite a disruptive building. 'I would prefer it never to have been built. 'If the scheme had not been built, George Square would have been one of Edinburgh's finest townscapes.'
'The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland' ('AHSS'), which was founded to oppose the university's plans for George Square, was also consulted about the proposal to list the Sixties buildings. Mr.Andrew Martindale, the director of 'AHSS', said:
'It is going to be difficult for some people to recognise that these buildings are good-quality and are worth serious consideration. 'If you look at the original plans it involved demolishing most of the South Side of Edinburgh.
'It's quite a scary vision and Edinburgh was very fortunate that some of the megalomaniac visions of the architects didn't get carried out.'
Mr.David Mcdonald, director of 'The Cockburn Association', said:
'The association is pleased that "The Appleton Tower" has been left off the list and that "The David Hume Tower" is on it.
'"The David Hume Tower" is one of the finest examples of a tower block in Scotland, although the demolition of the Georgian buildings to make way for the tower was one of the worst architectural crimes of its day.'
A spokesman for 'Edinburgh University' said:
'Throughout history, the university has produced some key buildings, such as "Old College" and "New College".
'Now these new buildings are being recognised as being of national or international importance.'
Mr.Malcolm Cooper, 'Historic Scotland's' chief inspector, said:
'These proposals will now go forward to the council for consultation.
'Once listed, they will be formally recognised as buildings which contribute to the city's reputation as a city of fine architecture, whether it is mediaeval, Georgian or modern.'
''Ugly' tower block to join the A-list', Claire Smith, The Scotsman, 2005-11-15

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