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EDITIONS
Monday, 20 November, 2000, 14:57 GMT
Dismal distinction for Airdrie
Sir John Wilson Town Hall
The magazine praised the Sir John Wilson Town Hall
Airdrie has picked up its second honour in two days - but the latest trophy is one it would rather ignore.

The Lanarkshire town was celebrating on Sunday after its closure-threatened football club lifted the Challenge Cup after a penalty shoot-out win over Livingston.

But now an architectural magazine has named Airdrie as the winner of the Carbuncle Award for Scotland's most dismal town.

It fought off competition from nine other finalists - including Cumbernauld, Campbeltown, Ardrossan and Balloch - for the dubious distinction.

The revamp of Airdrie's paving...has served to emphasise the desolate nature of the street

Judges' report
But it was described as a "deserving candidate" by architectural magazine Prospect's selection panel.

And the judges have claimed the majority of the townspeople backed their findings.

They said that just one out of 10 people interviewed in the area denied it was a "dismal town."

Penny Lewis, deputy editor of the magazine, said: "This is not a criticism of the people of Airdrie it is a criticism of the professionals who decide what does and does not happen."

The revelation comes just days after the magazine announced that a Glasgow cinema had been voted Scotland's ugliest building.

The UGC multi-screen building, due to open next year, topped a poll to earn being named "Carbuncle of the Year".

UGC Cinema Glasgow
A Glasgow cinema was Scotland's ugliest building
The "attractions" highlighted in Airdrie included its old shopping centre, the refurbishment of its sheriff court with honey-coloured cladding and its pedestrianisation scheme.

The magazine said the town had suffered from pedestrianisation "mania" in Graham Street, where the local authority has just spent 650,000 on a new paving scheme.

A report by the judges said the deserted Safeway building which dominates the town centre served to emphasise its "desolate" appearance.

On the plus side, the magazine praised the Sir John Wilson Town Hall, which dates from 1912.

It was cited by locals as their favourite building, but claimed most people they had spoken to "found it easier to talk about the eyesores in the town than the buildings of merit".

'Questionable decisions'

"The sheriff court is clad in honey-coloured panels and block work, materials that would not look out of place cladding a supermarket," the report said.

"The revamp of Airdrie's paving, between the old redundant Safeway building and the 1970s DSS offices, has served to emphasise the desolate nature of the street.

"It seems to have made its fair share of questionable planning decisions over the last few years.

"It is hard to see any long-term thinking in the way that Airdrie has developed."

I think it's just cynical and nasty and cheap, cheap public relations

Neil Baxter, architectural consultant
However, architectural consultant Neil Baxter was unimpressed with the contest.

"They may argue that it's simply about aesthetics, it's simply about the look of a place," he declared.

"But it actually doesn't benefit anyone to condemn someone's town out of hand.

"I think it's just cynical and nasty and cheap, cheap public relations."

'Honest debate'

But the magazine has defended the award, claiming it would make the town's planners more conscious of previous architectural failures as they embark on building a 65 million leisure and shopping complex.

Ms Lewis said the idea had been to foster an "honest and critical debate" about the state of Scotland's towns.

She said: "The carbuncles awards were never intended as an attack on the people living in the nominated towns.

"The criticisms that were made, some by local residents, referred to the poor quality of the built environment."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Pauline McLean, arts correspondent
"The industry magazine asked visitors to its internet site to vote for the worst town from a shortlist of 10"
Penny Lewis, deputy editor
"It is not the residents we are criticising"
See also:

17 Nov 00 | Scotland
16 Sep 99 | e-cyclopedia
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