Monday, 14 October 2013

Watch the birdie

Regent's Place is an island of high-rise development on the edge of Camden, now pushing its boundaries to squeeze in as many square metres as possible. The result is an uncomfortable jumble of very large buildings, all different and competing with each other for attention as well as plot space. Although there are four elements in the last part to be completed, they were designed by two architects, one doing the offices and the other the residential parts. The offices are glossy glass structures which might not be too bad if they had a bit of space around them.

The residential tower, though, is quite possibly the ugliest tower in London, a grim grey structure that looks puny situated as it is alongside the no-frills bulk of Euston Tower (once the home of Capital Radio). A relatively low-rise block of flats along Hampstead Road was designed by the same architect. Come rain or shine, that overall matt grey finish and the complicated balconies do nothing to make the building seem friendly. The final touch, perhaps, is this surprising but not entirely welcome image of a bird fixed high up on the facade. Maybe there will be more of the same, but for now there is just the one. The artwork is by Gary Hume, the YBA who does extremely simple paintings using domestic gloss paint, so simple there is little to appreciate except I suppose a certain degree of abstraction. Here we get a biggish bird, some leaves and a stick, or at least it looks like a stick, although one's first thought is that it's badly drawn leg. Perhaps there are art world characters who think this is an achievement, but it seems perfectly valid to call it an unfortunate bad decision. If not something ruder.

There used to be a giant mural by Michael Craig-Martin on the site, not in the same place but nearby - a pop-art image of an electric fan, several storeys high and lit up at night. It didn't appear to have any particular relevance but it was quite nice as a landmark. The bird doesn't come close to replacing it.