Landmarks: Oxford: Wendy Shillam, a London-based architect, reflects on the future of Oxford's Westgate car park

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
When you think of Oxford, your thoughts turn immediately to the dreaming spires. However the visitor's first experience is of the huge queue for the Westgate car park stretching back along the ring road. Eventually, you get in to the car park and you're shunted across a bridge to the shopping centre. This bridge is rather like a modern day Bridge of Sighs, where you look out over the real city below, hemmed in meanwhile in this nasty, smelly aluminium and glass structure, dreaming of what might have been.

The car park was built in 1967 and is probably the largest building in Oxford. In that respect, it would be foolish to demolish it, which I see as both wasteful and intrusive. However it is also ridiculous to leave it as a car park. I would close it down and turn it into student housing, which remains one of Oxford's greatest needs and would completely revitalise the blank anonymity of the Westgate Centre. We all have a duty to ensure that never again will arguments of economics be used to justify the less than inspiring architecture which haunts the urban landscape, in this case the dreaming spires of Oxford.

Comments