Dear Margaret – Mike Whitby’s letter about Central Library

I’ve just put Mike Whitby’s letter to Margaret Hodge of the DCMS about Central Library up online. Go read it, it’s interesting, but I’ll pull out a few points here, and comment from my own perspective:

“how has the situation has changed in the five years since the former Secretary of State decided the building should not be listed [?] In terms of the physical condition of the building, clearly that has deteriorated further…”

Well it has (if it has), because the Council have let it happen — if deterioration of a Council building isn’t their responsibility whose is it? Maybe a building needs listing more if those responsible don’t maintain it.

“and the inadequacies of the building for a contemporary library service in a dynamic multi-cultural community at the heart of a globally relevant city become evermore apparent.”

Listing doesn’t always rely on usage – many people have suggested the building stay, but the purpose change.

“the building has never received a single architectural award since its completion, locally, nationally, or internationally.” “…not a single building by John Madin has been statutorily listed.”

Awww, let’s give it an award now, ‘BiNS Library of the Year’. Let’s not do something because it’s never been done before, not a visionistic argument really.

” the opinion of both the City Council and the overwhelming majority of leading organisations representing the educational, commercial and civic life of the City, together with residents,…”

Opinion of residents? Have we had a vote? Or consultation?

“The accretions to the original building have also clearly detracted from the original monumental statement.”

He means the additional stuff — well TAKE IT DOWN!

“In his authoritative book ‘Building Jerusalem’ published in 2007, Tristram Hunt describes the erection of the Chamberlain Memorial as the apogee of the civic gospel and goes on to say, ` Once a shrine to public service, it is now sullied by the glaring neon lights of a McDonalds and the tat of second-rate retailers.’”

Yes, we hate the MacDonalds too — unsully the library.

Apart from that it was mostly the Council position as has been stated before, I’m still wondering how knock down one building and selling the land for to build another creates “space”.

Well, the period of time to write to the government has closed – for now – so all we can do is wait.

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