Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Surrealism strikes St John's and Working Streets

When I cycled into church in the drizzle this morning, I was unprepared for the sight that greeted me. Around the north and east perimeter of St John's now sit the four German style wooden building attempting to repreduce the style and ethos of a Weinachtsmarkt. To my mind they are disproportionately large, out of scale with their surroundings, looking more like a garish pastiche of a market place than the real thing. I can't believe anyone approved designs for this without considering the visual impact. I also wonder if larger vehicles and fire engines will be able to squeeze through Working Street safely without taking another new lamp post with them. So far this year, four new lamp posts have been downed by big lorries.

Worst of all, the 'chalet' housing the bar, selling mulled wine and German lager, is set so close to the church gate as to render the entrance unusable for the next six weeks. In previous years, when the churchyard wall was lined with the huts of the Craft Fayre, an undertaken was made at the outset to leave a gap in the row of huts that would permit access through the gate. This edifice had been erected with no regard for church users. Much annoyed, I asked a man in charge what made them put the thing in a place where gate access was blocked. He told me that he'd been told the gate was "not in use". Whether I'll ever be able to track down the person who spread that bit of mischief is doubtful.

I knew that this ephemeral project was on the cards for the season, but I feel like I have been duped. I cannot imagine how the designs got past the Planning phase without their visual impact being called into question. Maybe I was missing from the Consultative group meeting when it was on the agenda. Maybe it was shrugged through on the grounds it's only temporary so it doesn't matter. The new public realm in which the church is set now looks as surreal as it might if surrounded by fairground from a weird ersatz Deutchland. It remains to be seen whether it stimulates equally bizarre behaviour in the average Cardiff punter.

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