Leading architectural author Owen Hatherley turned up at an Harrogate International Festival Fringe event at 108 Fine Art gallery at 1 Crown Place.
The Guardian regular, one of the UK’s sharpest critics at the age of 30, picked the winner of the Best Modern Building in Harrogate competition - the Harrogate International Centre.
Earlier in the day, organiser Graham Chalmers , of the Harrogate Advertiser hadtaken Hatherley on a guided tour of the shortlisted buildings, including a private house on Rossett Drive andthe ‘golf balls’ on Menwith Hill.
Chalmers, who is also programme coordinator of Harrogate International Festival Fringe, said Hatherley had made notes and taken photographs at every stop on the way.
“I’m not saying Harrogate will turn up in Owen’s next book; he’s more at home in cities and concrete new towns gone wrong, but he made a lot of very insightful points. He did add there was no way he could have voted for a US base, however.”
“The interesting thing about the whole experience was seeing Harrogate through someone else’s eyes. The town is a lot more modern than we think.”
“To be honest, it was a small competition in the scheme of things but the scope of its ideas was big.”
Hatherley, whose latest book A New Kind of Bleak, was published last week to rave reviews in the national press, said the Harrogate International Centre auditorium, originally opened in 1982, was the boldest, most coherent statement of modern architecture in Harrogate.
Hatherley had already rejected one controversial nomination, the ‘golf balls’ at Menwith Hill, when Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases coordinator Lindis Percy arrived at the gallery to unfurl a huge banner and lodge a complaint against their inclusion in the competition.
The Best Modern Building in Harrogate competition was sponsored by Acceleris and coincided with an associated exhibition at 108 Fine Art.
Curated by Graham Chalmers with the support of Harrogate Civic Society and North Yorkshire County Council’s archive department, Past Dreams of the Future highlighted ambitious developments in the past for the town which reached the planning stage without ever reaching fruition.
The focus was on the radical plans for the Royal Baths redevelopment of 1964 which Chalmers said looked like something out of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
Among those attending the exhibition were Andrew Stewart of 108 Fine Art, Susan Amaku, vice-chairman of Harrogate Civic Society , Peter Davenport, managing director of Acceleris, the sponsors, Graham Boyce, chairman of North Yorkshire Society of Architects, Harrogate Civic Society chairman Henry Pankhurst, Nick Thorpe of LT Design.