Monday, February 04, 2013

Metropolis On The Mersey

One can only surmise that Big Al Machray & his minions at the Oldham Echo saw the silent movie classic Metropolis some years back & decided that Fritz Lang's 1927 production ( ) should act as the blueprint for the city of Liverpool & its port in particular.
That's the only conclusion to be drawn from the fawning adoration bestowed by Oldham Hall Street on yet another plan to "transform" the Kings Dock ( ). A fetish for a futuristic dystopia would normally be sufficient reason to consult a psychiatrist. In Big Al's case, however, it qualifies him to edit a paper whose capacity for self-delusion & denial would impress Saddam's former spin doctor, Comical Ali.
The Echo's piece has been penned by Marc Waddington, who enthuses:
"Up to 1,000 jobs could be created by the new masterplan for the waterfront area, which will include apartments, offices, hotels & leisure complexes."
Here we go again with Echo buzz phrases. "Up to" a thousand jobs, you say? So it could be considerably fewer than that. Going by previous instances, it would be sensible to view that phrase as, well, imaginative. Additionally, the use of "could" is a sure indication that Oldham Hall Street is doing its usual trick of whistling in the wind while the icy blast of a triple-dip recession, coupled with the cuts, freezes Merseyside more effectively than any meteorological factors.
Then there's the artist's impression of what the Kings Dock "could" (copyright Oldham Hall Street) look like, &, yes, it is truly hideous, a fact not lost on a few commenters. "BigEnd" (nice moniker) declares:
"This looks like the lovechild of the Malmaison Hotel and the new museum. With a dash of DNA from the ferry terminal. Please -- are there any architects out there with some sense of style? We deserve better than this."
Yes, BigEnd, we certainly do. Alas, we won't get it while the Oldham Echo champions such monstrosities.
Another commenter (Stewart f43) asks:
"Is it just me, or do these designs look like something out of Star Wars? 'Brutalist' isn't the expression for this -- try 'plain ugly'. Was nothing learned from the awful old Pier Head design?"
To which one must sadly reply that nothing will ever be learned by the latter-day Bourbons who hail such grotesque vanity projects as graceful adornments to the city's Botoxed waterfront.
So who is behind this plan that the Echo is keen to promote? Well, it's the work of the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA), whose chief executive Deborah McLaughlin is quoted in Waddington's piece. However, she cautions:
"No specific figure has been put on investment in the overall development plan, but it is likely to run into hundreds of millions of pounds."
That's conveniently ambiguous, wouldn't you say? Moreover, it beggars belief to view the project itself as viable in the near to mid-term future when the economy is, at best becalmed in the ConDems' Doldrums, & any lending from the banks for infrastructure projects is a bit like Liverpool's chances of a Champions League place: nice in theory, but impossible in practice.
The role of messenger is crucial in cases such as this. As messenger, the Oldham Echo yet again shows a dispiriting willingness to publish what is effectively a puff-piece for HCA. The Echo is well-versed in promoting the interests of unaccountable, unelected business interests & their schemes to "regenerate" the region (do I hear the name Peel Holdings faintly in the distance?). That Waddington's article is a puff-piece is apparent from reading HCA's own blurb about the project ( ), the use of terms such as "transform" & "masterplan" eerily evident in the HCA piece as well as a suitably supportive quote from Cllr Malcolm Kennedy, the city council's cabinet member for regeneration. Cllr Kennedy has been vocal in his view that the "development" of the Lime Street area has been good for the city. Those with aesthetic taste would beg to differ.
The waterfront has been disfigured by supposedly grand projects which say more about the backers of such schemes than any PR blurbs could hope to obscure. Those schemes have veered between farce & wilful civic vandalism ( ).
Fritz Lang's classic was supposed to act as a cautionary tale against the dangerous cocktail of hubris & technology; the apparent "progress" being merely a mirage. It's a lesson the civic goons, the Oldham Echo & the business interests they eagerly acclaim are destined to ignore.

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