Not an entirely random name for a blog, but close. I am not a goat herder - in the usual meaning of that word; nor does the Urban Dictionary definition apply to me either (for a decade at least): an extremely drunk male who having lost all self-respect and standards, loses his powers of discrimination when pulling females. It is said that Gateshead derives its name from a settlement near an early Tyne crossing where goats once roamed. The goats are long gone, but me - I like to roam these parts - or rather run - exploring new places, rediscovering old ones in and around Gateshead and Newcastle when I'm out jogging. This blog is a collection of my photos, thoughts, observations, rants, loves and hates about Newcastle and Gateshead.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Blue Carpet

Thomas Heatherwick would crash his Routemaster bus if he drove past and saw this shite.  The increasingly delapidated - literally (latin - to take away stone) public art project known as The Blue Carpet is becoming an eyesore.  The yellow-grey tiles with flecks of blue glass are crumbling faster than the council can lay new ones - and their stock of replacement tiles is depleting fast; the lights have gone out, benches flattened, thresholds nicked, lighting snuffed out, tree roots threatening to lift the tiles before they disintegrate entirely.  It's past its sell-by date.

It might be expected that a public work of art would look past its best after a while - especially if the maintenance costs are high or its bespoke nature make it impossible to replace parts - but this has looked shite for years.  

This project has been a joke from its first inception - and I mean Newcastle Council's efforts in installing and maintaining the project, rather than the designer's original concept - which I do like. The council have ballsed this up from the start.  I have worked in and around the area this square for many years, watched its development, and despaired at the delays, installation and demise.  It has seriously wound me up to the extent that, if pushed to offer my opinion on it, I am so utterly exasperated that I would be lost for words.   

I have always thought it was a good design concept with some novel and interesting ideas / features.  But the execution of the project's installation was disgraceful,  and the end result I found to be disappointing - especially the colour of the tiles: light blue at best.  On the plus side, it did turn an anonymous drab location - a dead end / cul de sac / turning circle - into a pedestrianised public open space which is certainly an improvement on what was there before.  And I concede grudgingly that it is a reasonably pleasant place in the summer - if only there were more than two benches to sit on.

The Blue Carpet was conceived or commissioned in 1996 as part of a Council sponsored Visual Arts programme, but budget constraints, technical problems other planning wrangles conspired to delay the completion of the project until 2001, with the partially completed site laying idle for well over a year.  But long period of disruption caused by construction work and delays when the Blue Carpet was being installed. This affected both visibility and access to surrounding premises and business for up to two years.

I attended some of the council's local consultation meetings where the details of the project and its installation timetable were presented to representatives of companies in the vicinity of the development.  The concept presented to us comprised a carpet of tiles containing recycled blue glass that would provide a rich shade of blue.  It was intended that the extent of the carpet would reach all the way to the spiral staircase "ribbon" next to the Crest hotel (Premier Inn at present) - the staircase would resemble a ribbon twirling down on to a blue carpet.  There would be underground illuminated display cabinets where the carpet had been pulled back to create a bench. It was intended that these cabinets would display artefacts from the Laing Art Gallery (whose doors open on to the carpet).

Budget constraints reduced the area of the carpet so that it ended well short of the ribbon staircase, the underground cabinets were narrow cavities filled with permanently-lit, multi-coloured, flourescent tube lighting, covered by a smooth toughened glass panel.  Healthy and safety concerns soon dictated that the glass was covered by transparent grip tape.

Flourescent tubes proved expensive to run and difficult to replace once they reached the end of their life.   In 2006, the flouresent tube lighting system was replaced by coloured LED rope lights - much dimmer than the original tubes.  They are permanently lit, and now most of them have gone out.

Delivery vans flattened two of the benches; they were never replaced - simply carpeted over. Thieves have stolen some of the thresholds - I didn't realise that they were actually metal - and they are screwed down in the same was as a carpet threshold would be.

It looks a mess and it should be ripped up.  It's a shame, it could have been so much better.  I just hope that the Council gets on with is East Pilgrim Street development proposals and creates a large pedestrianised square spanning John Dobson Street, to connect the Laing Art Gallery and the Library.

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