Backing for town's art centre plan

By Roddy AshworthA LEADING expert in town planning and architecture has said residents should feel pleased and lucky that a controversial art gallery was to be built in there town.

By Roddy Ashworth

A LEADING expert in town planning and architecture has said residents should feel pleased and lucky that a controversial art gallery was to be built in there town.

He added that rather than considering the building too imposing, he believed the new visual arts centre would not have enough impact on the Colchester skyline.

Professor Jules Lubbock, a former adviser and speechwriter for the Prince of Wales, said the £16million centre - at the heart of the plan to regenerate the St Botolph's area of Colchester - was a "magnificent" modern building that would draw people from across the country.


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The proposed building, designed by world-renowned architect Rafael Vinoly, has been criticised by some of residents as too large, too modern and out-of-context for its historic surroundings.

Prof Lubbock said: "If you took the idea of not having anything new, then you would not have the town hall, which stands out in stark contrast with 18th century and medieval Colchester.

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"Today, you would never, ever be able to build Jumbo - it would be out of the question. I think the design of the new building is incredibly contextual in the way it fits in and conceals itself.

"Personally, I would have preferred a major feature, such as a spire, which would have stuck up into the sky and said 'Here's something important'."

Prof Lubbock, professor of art history and theory at Essex University, added projects such as the visual arts centre had been successful in dramatically increasing the numbers of visitors to towns where they had been built.

"I think it's certainly going to bring in the money and the people. This kind of scheme is very much the fashion at the moment," he said.

"A generation ago people focussed on building highways, car parks and shopping malls. Now the big idea is art because it brings in more people from a wider area.

"I think people are whipping up a storm in a tea cup about this. They should feel jolly lucky and jolly pleased they are getting something new of this quality."

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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