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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Eyesore or gem: Brunel Roundabout
BUILDING SITE
Five controversial buildings - should they stay or go?

Brunel Roundabout

The maxim of beauty being in the eye of the beholder is no more true than in people's estimations of modern buildings. To mark Architecture Week, the Magazine is taking some of Britain's most controversial buildings to task.

Of all the thousands of place-names in the UK, none have the quite the resonance and baggage of Slough, with its unkind poetic references.

The Berkshire town is now almost as famous for the Office, Ricky Gervais's sitcom, which offered glimpses of the town centre, particularly the Brunel Roundabout and nearby bus station.

VOTE RESULTS
Should the Brunel Roundabout face the wrecking ball?
No, it should stay
 39.78% 
Yes, it should go
 48.52% 
I don't know
 11.71% 
13045 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Now the roundabout, bus station and much of the surrounding area featured in the programme's title sequence are to be demolished as part of the 400m Heart of Slough project, which hopes to bring shops and new homes to a town centre long thought of as an urban planning dystopia.

Here Kevin Beresford, author and roundabouts enthusiast, expresses his dismay at the loss of an iconic site, while Slough councillor Dexter Smith says the town needs to slough off its ironic image as a great place for dismal buildings.

KEEP IT - KEVIN BERESFORD, ROUNDABOUT APPRECIATION SOCIETY

I've had it adorn the cover of my book, Roundabouts of Great Britain. It is quite recognisable by most of the British motoring public. The great thing about roundabouts is you can put anything on them, churches, picture houses, bushes, trees. A lot of artists show their wares on roundabouts.

The Brunel Roundabout is almost like a park in itself.

The British public do like their roundabouts, and it's not just them, but places like France and Spain. Because the Brunel Roundabout is in the credits of the Office, it has become a Slough landmark.

FLATTEN OR SAVE?
Brunel Bus Station

It's a great compliment. It's going to be a bit sad to see it knocked down. I can't understand why they would do this. Has Slough got an image? We should form a committee and protest to save it.

[If you wanted an unattractive roundabout], I think the Magic Roundabout in Swindon. It is functional, but it's the white knuckle ride of all roundabouts. You should read some of the e-mails I get, from all around the world - there's some real roundabout nerds out there.

We have about 30 people in the Roundabout Appreciation Society. The society does trips to Swindon but maybe we will do one to the Brunel Roundabout while it is still there.

DEMOLISH IT - DEXTER SMITH, SLOUGH BOROUGH COUNCIL

For the credits of the Office, it has been chosen by the BBC to represent a sort of fairly faceless and strangely impersonal town in the sense that you don't see any people, you don't see any names. I would dispute it is the most famous place in Slough.

We have got a lovely Norman church, Victorian squares, even some Tudor buildings and the Kedderminster Library, which is one of the oldest libraries, attached to a church. I would argue we have got plenty of nice historic things, little hidden gems.

The Brunel Roundabout
The paths under the roundabout are frightening to some

We don't need the Brunel bus station and roundabout. It's got a bit of a Centrepoint look to it in the diamond shapes of the concrete, but I'm afraid that's about as near as the comparison goes. Overall I don't think there is any great merit to it.

The bus station is right there on the roundabout. It isn't working as a functional or particularly aesthetically pleasing place. It is large, cavernous, probably too big for the needs of the bus company, too big to heat and light economically. It was designed for double deckers - now most buses are single deckers.

There is a big car park, but largely not used for a variety of reasons, such as being next to a Tesco car park. Secondly car parks designed in the 1960s and 1970s were for cars that are a lot smaller than they are today. Generally there is a feeling that there are lots of dank and smelly areas where the security is poor.

Artist's impression of new development in Heart of Slough
Nice shiny buildings will soon be in place

The Heart of Slough is to liberate a lot of the highways land that is taken up by the roundabout. It will be replaced by a series of traffic-lit filter lanes with a crossroads. It will give us, amazingly, another 20 acres to play with.

There will be a combination of residential properties, offices, shops and a new bus station, a community building. A lot of buildings that are of a fairly functional nature have a very limited life span.


Below is a selection of your comments.

The great feature of the Brunel multi-storey car park was that there are no pillars between the parking spaces making it very easy to park in. For some reason later car park designers find it hard to emulate this.
Lawrence, Staines

As a Windsorian, I've no love for Slough, but I do feel it gets a raw deal in the media. It seems to be used as a catch-all example in any news story about social issues, immigration and urban decline; and now its architecture gets a kicking too! The roundabout isn't beautiful, but it works, allowing fairly quick passage across the busy A4 and dealing with commuters, shoppers and Tesco traffic too. It seems anything not made of shiny glass and steel gets ear-marked for demolition these days; such a shame.
Mr M J Allen, Windsor, UK

I've lived in Slough and it has very few roundabouts, drivers never seem to understand what to do at the brunel. It was always a frustrating experience. Give it the axe! PS I grew up in swindon so had the magic as part of my driving test, piece of cake in comparison.
Jaq, london

As an ex-resident of Slough I totally agree with the demolition. The bus station is rundown, dark and extremely sinister, as are the roundabout subway tunnels - especially on a dark winter evening. Get rid of them....
Jonathan Munro, Tonbridge, UK

I would disagree that the British public like their roundabouts. Personally I think many otherwise decent roads are spoiled by unnecessary roundabouts. This is especially true of bypasses, where the sole purpose is to get past somewhere quickly, but instead we get stuck in pointless roundabouts. They are a curse!
Owain Vaughan, Newport, Monmouthshire, United Kingdom



SEE ALSO
Backing for town's 400m makeover
21 Dec 06 |  Berkshire

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