Author Owen Hatherley full of praise for Leicester's landmarks and venues
Architectural expert Owen Hatherley has not always had the nicest things to say about Leicester in the past.
But all is forgiven, as he is now singing our praises – and telling the world our fine city is far superior to Birmingham.
The journalist and author has dedicated a chapter to Leicester in his latest book, A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain.
Following a visit to the city last year, he later described the area around the National Space Centre as a "bloody mess" on the Radio 4 talk show Four Thought.
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While the Abbey Lane area takes a second battering in the book, released last month, Mr Hatherley is much more complimentary about Leicester in general and its folk.
"You'll find Leicester is about as good as a medium-sized English city gets, with all of the best features and relatively few of its mistakes and frustrations," he wrote.
"It has lots of the best things about northern cities – refusal of Good Taste, proper urban scale and civic pride, a great big covered market – without their tendency to blow their own trumpets.
"It has far greater density of interesting 20th and 21st century architecture than Birmingham and can also lay claim to a couple of the most important modern buildings of the last hundred years."
The critic, who focuses on architecture, politics and culture, is also full of praise for the "spectacular" space centre – which he nicknames 'The Maggot' – but not the "overgrown scrubland" which surrounds it.
Malika Andress, head of marketing at the National Space Centre, said she was glad Mr Hatherley enjoyed his visit.
"It is always great to see people talk about our amazing and diverse city and it is even better when they talk about the National Space Centre in it," she said. "I'm glad to see the Rocket Tower inspired a new name 'The Maggot'.
"It is not the most flattering name for a multi award-winning piece of architecture, but it isn't the worst."
Last week, developers received permission to build an Asda supermarket on the wasteland, along with a petrol station and an innovation and technology building.
It will kick-start the council's proposed science park in Abbey Meadows, which will boast a separate £5 million design and research workspace as its centrepiece.
City mayor Peter Soulsby said: "Anyone who says we are better than Birmingham is all right in my book. But I would invite him to come back in a few years, when the development around the space centre is well underway." Mr Hatherley was full of praise for Leicester's market, with its "welcome note of chaos and bustle".
Mr Hatherley goes on to applaud our Cultural Quarter, the Haymarket Centre, and the University of Leicester's buildings.
A New Kind of Bleak was released by Verso on June 18, and is priced £20.
Here’s what Owen Hatherley had to say about Leicester’s venues and landmarks
Space Centre: It is fun to see a sign pointing you to space next to a completely mundane row of terraced houses. It’s also fun to see this bizarre, bulbous creation looming out from behind them...
The centre was lottery-funded, part of some overarching regeneration ‘offer’, but as so often it seems to have stalled half-way through.
The spectacular, signature museum is there, it got built, and here at least it’s quite delightful.
Very close to it, housing got built...
There’s only wasteland separating the two forms of redevelopment.
Cultural Quarter: The ensemble that gives the best view of the pleasures of Leicester is, rather unexpectedly a cultural quarter, centred on a square named after Joe Orton, the working-class playwright who harboured little affection for his birthplace.
Curve: A sweeping but relatively simple and undemonstrative design...
It’s perhaps a storey or so too tall, but it takes up well a rhythm that begins with the staggered, stepped curtain wall of a post-war office building, veering towards a Weimaresque Odeon cinema by Harry Weedon and then continuing down Rutland Street.
Leicester Market: The Northernness of this Midland city can be gleaned from its vast complex of street markets, which introduces a welcome note of chaos and bustle and a working-class presence into a city which you soon find has tried to stake as much on big retail as everywhere else.
Leaving the train station: A dual carriageway runs in between. This feels like the banker belt on the Leeds ring road... but it’s deceptive, and soon you find yourself in a bustling town centre, particularly rich in tasteless Victorian Grand Hotels, soft-porn Victorian monuments, and in fine early-20th century architecture, usually at some midway point between the floridity of art nouveau and the more rectilinear grace of art deco.”