Wednesday 2 January 2013

Civic Pride

As part of my New Year celebrations I went with friends to see a stunning performance of The Nutcracker by Northern Ballet at Leeds Grand Theatre. Afterwards we went for a meal at a city centre restaurant.  I can't remember the restaurant's name but it was housed in an imposing building, overlooking City Square, which was formerly the Crown Post Office.  The current Post Office has now been shifted to a corner  of a nondescript shopping mall.

Closer to home, in Batley, what was formerly the Post Office, another impressive  building next to our Carnegie Library, and overlooking a market square which would be regarded as pretty were it in France or Greece, is now an Italian restaurant, and the Post Office has been shifted to a grubby building slightly off the town centre.

Then, a few weeks ago, orders were sent from the Department of Education that all schools are now  to be built to a utilitarian and cheeseparing tenplatee which I've just  learned to think of as "brutalist."

Our Victorian forebears were infused with national and civic pride which, among other things, was lavished on public buildings.  The splendid town halls of Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield,  Liverpool and Manchester are just some example, and Batley's isn't too bad, though it started life as a Mechanics' Institute.

 The movement of great state and local government  institutions from these imposing manifestations of pride is just another example of the public squalor which is now deemed necessary  to maintain private affluence.

1 comment:

  1. John Cole, formerly a Liberal Democrat councillor in Bradford, seems unable to master the technique of making a comment directly but has this to say by Email.

    "Can I put in a quick plea for City Hall in Bradford as an example of impressive architecture? This was missed off your list.

    The thrust of your piece is to the point: I fully agree. The design of schools under BSF was excellent (I acknowledge that the BSF programme was flawed in other ways, such as finance via PFI , cumbersome administration, poor governance and the build-quality on occasions. However, the designs were outstanding and have created schools which are good to learn and teach in).

    Whitehall has now reverted to building standards which take educational buildings backwards 50 years."