Friday, June 06, 2008

Building and rebuilding in the city centre

Trinity Street is blocked again today, while scaffolding is erected and an enclosure built around O'Neill's pub, to contain the equipments that'll be needed to restore the building after the fire.

An engineer from the company working on the restoration project, armed with camera called into the church to ask it it would be possible to access the tower to take a photograph. This wasn't such an easy request to respond to, as not all the keys to ascend the heights are immediately available. However, I was able to offer to email him an excellent photograph taken from the tower roof by Richard our churchwarden, on ringing practice night.

Work on the St David's shopping centre this week has now got to the stage where roofing structure for the arcade is rapidly being put into place. Webcam photos from St David's Hall on Monday and yesterday show clearly how much has been done in three days. So, I made a circuit of the building sit and took some additional photos to add to my web photo-narrative, including, finally a picture from the ninth floor of Southgate House, during a visit to the city centre manager's office. Paul enthused to me about the newly opened marketing suite for apartments under construction, located in a retail unit at at the western end of the Wyndham Arcade, so on my way back to church I called in to have a look for myself.

There's a scale model of the entire complex of the 305 apartments being constructed, and linked to it there's a computer simulation, accessed by an expensively large touchpad, linked to a massive LCD screen, which permits a fly-by tour of the apartment site, and the possibility of homing in on one of the five? blocks in the complex, clicking on a particular apartment and floor, and then seeing on the big LCD screen an outside image of the location of the apartment. Added to this, as if the virtual view is not enough, the location of the apartment within the physical 3D model light up, so you know where you are. Impressive!

You don't get an impression of what you see when you look out from any apartment, mind you. But the 3D model has enough detail to enable you to imagine how each block of the complex will look, with its trees and gardens two floors above street level. You also get a good impression from the model of how the apartment blocks relate to the shopping centre. At last I understand why there's an east-west gap in the middle of the steel structure, seen from the Hayes. It's one of the entrances to the main shopping mall, which itself will be lined with shops. The south end of the apartment complex has a curved exterior face. This overlooks the John Lewis store building. In effect, the design creates a new street between the SD2 edifice and the John Lewis store. All this will become clearer as the external cladding on the building frameworks is put in place.

The scale of all this construction work is still a bit mind numbing, and it's easy for most people to switch off and simply endure until it becomes obvious what's there to be lived with. However, for me there is a certain geeky fascination with working out what is emerging behind construction site hoardings, as well as speculating how it's all going to translate into social interaction between hundreds of people willing to shell out £2-400,000 for a piece of city centre real estate.

The charming young lady who was minding the shop and gave me a tour of its technology said that it was noticeable the number of older people who were taking an interest and signing up for a future apartment in the heart of the city. I understand the attractions and the convenience this implies, but as I approach retirement, my thoughts and feelings are dominated by the prospect of a view of mountains and/or sea, and a small enough plot of land to cope with growing veggies and a site to savour the view. We don't know where this will be as yet, but after a mostly urban ministry, the possibility of something rather different is compelling.

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