Architect defends arts centre plan

By Roddy AshworthTHE world-renowned architect behind the controversial plan for an ultra-modern art gallery said he was not surprised at the outcry surrounding it.

By Roddy Ashworth

THE world-renowned architect behind the controversial plan for an ultra-modern art gallery said he was not surprised at the outcry surrounding it.

Rafael Vinoly said the type of concerns expressed by some residents at the plan for the new Visual Arts Facility in Colchester was not unusual wherever large-scale contemporary buildings were proposed.

Mr Vinoly's design “concept” of a bronze-coloured, crescent-shaped building - destined to become the new home of arts organisation firstsite - has been criticised by some people as too big and inappropriate for the area.


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The £16.5million scheme, mostly financed by regional and national bodies, forms the lynchpin of the plans for a major regeneration of the St Botolph's area of Colchester.

“I think it would be really impossible to imagine you could have an important building that doesn't go through this sort of controversy,” said Mr Vinoly.

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“It is inherent in the nature of change that some people will react to it in a negative key.

“If you look back that far - not to make a comparison between the projects themselves - during the construction of the Eiffel Tower many people were really horrified.

“I am attentive to the criticism. You always have the chance to learn from these discussions and controversies.”

Mr Vinoly said he felt the new art gallery would create a “focus of development” on the eastern part of Colchester and generate a new civic space.

“It is a new building for a new profile for a town built on an ancient settlement,” he added.

“We are confident that the building will encourage a lot of movement towards this side of the town - which is perhaps the most memorable part because of the incredible collection of Roman remains. It will help the area fulfil its potential in both retail and cultural terms.”

Meanwhile, the East Anglian Daily Times has launched a referendum asking readers for their views on the masterplan to redevelop the St Botolph's area of Colchester, which includes the new visual arts centre, magistrates' courts, bus station and heritage trail.

Completed forms can be posted in ballot boxes in Colchester in ASDA, Turner Rise, Sweets News, St Botolph's Street, Welhams Gents Hairdressers, St Botolph's Street and Minories Art Gallery, High Street.

They can also be sent to the East Anglian Daily Times, Fairfax House, Causton Road, Colchester, CO1 1RJ.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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