“Cities are like volcanoes, they always have to move. If they don’t they’re dead.”

This rather peculiar and somewhat nonsensical comment comes from Allan Murray, one of the architects behind the highly controversial ‘Caltongate’ scheme proposed for Edinburgh, which would see a major redevelopment of the Old Town leading to the Royal Mile, including demolishing some listed buildings (which also happen to be home to people as well as listed). Strangely enough the company behind this attempt to dump a pile of bland, featureless architecture in a historic World Heritage site has attacked the people opposing this ill-conceived plan as ‘thoughtless’, while commenting that it is right for democracy to have a say while then dismissing some 2, 000 complaints against them, from private individuals and from important heritage groups. Democracy obviously suits the developers only when it agrees with them, otherwise you are just being ‘thoughtless’ and emotional (gee, some folks will lose their homes, imagine being emotional over that?!?! Eejits).

The architect who came up with this strange ‘argument’ in favour of his development (which he obviously has a huge vested interest in) above is also responsible for incredibly dull, featureless modern creations in the city already, which have nothing in common with the city environment or any distinguishing features that would make them stand out from a hundred other developments anywhere else in the modern world, exactly the sort of boring design that makes our cities look so dull and repetitive, and which in a historic city like Edinburgh is worse than dull, it is cultural vandalism. We’ve had, huge, ill-advised developments dumped on us before and they still blight the city, it is completely right that people are wary of them, especially in an area like the Old Town. That caution doesn’t mean the city can’t continue to evolve and develop, just that we should be very, very careful how and where we do it and I get the impression the developers are more interested in money than protecting the community in that area and our historical nature. I’m not Prince Charles and have no wish to see only more Neo-Classical architecture, but in World Heritage sites like the Old Town and New Town it is always advisable to err on the side of caution. If a developer wishes to work in that area they should expect that, it shouldn’t be a surprise to them.

Oh and Mr Murray, volcanoes don’t so much move as erupt and explode. The ground around them may move as a result of their eruptions but the volcanoes themselves not so much (other than the ground moving by floating over the hot liquid rock below, but all ground does that). And I don’t think you want to include cities and active volcanoes in the same sentence because that’s a scenario which doesn’t raise connotations of flourishing life, rather images of destruction, so I’m not sure what point you were making there. Unless it was a Freudian slip acknowledging your oversized development in a sensitive area will be destructive and leave scars on the city for years, just like a volcanic eruption would. Quite why the council approved this in the face of mass rejection by affected citizens and heritage groups I have no idea; if I was a cynic I’d be checking for brown envelopes slipped under doors…