Went down to Birmingham last Friday to talk to some schools for the Specialist Schools Trust: what a transformation has happened in the city centre since I was last there ten years ago! Trouble is, it's all so shiny and corporate that it looks much the same as any other regional city centre...once again the construction of urban images has driven the development of the downtown to the point where the private and public money has flooded in but there doesn't seem to be much of a vision beyond the usual retail cluster, dull business services and some fairly poor street performances to 'animate' the space. Not good enough! Sure there are the galleries, theatres, exhibition spaces etc but they recede compared to the urban retail spectacle.
I wandered around the shops at the end of the day and no-one appeared to be spending much money; just hanging out like me. is the uk turning into a debt ridden society of cappucino consumers? time for some local distinctiveness I think and time for some radical thinking about placemaking, locality and building capacity for local businesses and difference. otherwise we will all just be living in super-surveillance airport liminal space or in the ghetto, with not much in between. And what is happening in New Orleans is a huge and scary lesson in why there's a need for social infrastructure, social policy, and why the unbridled market will never provide on its own.