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Results tagged “sir donald gibson” from Coventry Telegraph - Talking Politics

IN 2009, I met two fashionable architect dudes from Los Angeles who were surprisingly set to shape the historic rebuilding of Coventry city centre.

In February that year, the trendy designers from L.A. firm Jerde - Stuart Berriman and David Sheldon - unveiled their stunning final vision of an English city centre for the 21st century.

Their prescription amounted to a massive £1billion injection to breathe new life into an ageing and tired post-war city centre, once famed across Europe for the innovation of then city architect Sir Donald Gibson.

With Jerde's help, Coventry City Council leaders were acting out of alarm over the city centre's declining retail performance. They also sought a shot-in-the-arm to rejuvenate the central area's dying nightlife.

Coventry people in a public consultation seemed to like Jerde's juxtaposition of futuristic design concepts and the city's medieval and post-war architecture, alongside a flowing resurrected Sherbourne "river" - all under cascading roof-top gardens the size of seven football pitches.

Yet, amid the excitement, people also spotted the giant elephant in the room.

The UK had officially entered recession just four weeks before. The previous year's global banking collapse and credit crunch had signalled the end of credit-fueled boom.

WILL the planned redevelopment of Broadgate and the walk down to the station really see a "once in a lifetime" transformation of Coventry?

That claim has been made repeatedly by Coventry City Council's Labour leaders, as they seek to deliver good news to the city.

The plan to pave the whole of Broadgate, introduce cafe tables and create a bus-free events space for concerts or markets has even been compared to the building of the new cathedral, and the internationally renowned post-war city centre redevelopment by city architect Sir Donald Gibson.

Politically, the spin and hype is understandable. Ruling Labour councillors have not had much to shout about since returning to power in last May's local elections.

Elected on the same day the nation delivered a hung Parliament before David Cameron entered Downing Street, the city's Labour leaders have since been planning for unprecedented savings, with historic 26 per cent cuts in government funding over the next four years.

With 1,000 jobs and frontline services facing the chop, angry political arguments have raged as to whose fault it is - the previous Labour government's debt, or international bankers and a Conservative-led government ideologically driven to wield an axe to the welfare state in favour of private profit.

COVENTRY people are proud of the city's post-war redevelopment and well-versed in its significance.

Dignitaries from all over the world came to look at Sir Donald Gibson's new city centre and gazed in awe at the pedestrianised Lower Precinct, which became a prototype for shopping malls worldwide. Its quadrangle of frontages on two levels reflected the dawning of a new age of consumerism.

Next to it was Coventry Market, also uniquely designed, with a circular shape and roof car-park, to welcome all the people into a vast communal meeting place from several entrances, just as the world-renowned mosque of Cordoba, Spain, was designed centuries earlier.

Plans to demolish or renew the market should not, therefore, be taken lightly.

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