The art of creating buildings is one of the most complex and challenging fields or activities that individuals or organizations involve in. fundamentals, preparations, designing, construction, use e .t. c are all basics in this field. In creating excellent buildings, clients whether from public, private or from voluntary sectors need to be competent and most preferably should seek advice from the experts. (CUFF, 1992).
The National Centre for Popular Music opened in 1999; one of a series of new cultural buildings to celebrate the Millennium. Like the Millennium Dome, anticipated visitor numbers were wildly optimistic; the £15m building was financially unviable and closed in 2000. The result of an RIBA competition, the winning scheme by Branson Coates created an iconic form in the city of Sheffield, but the business plan was fatally flawed and the building was eventually taken over by Sheffield Hallam University and reopened as a student Union. (GIBSON & CONNELL, 2005)
Implications for architects, clients and public buildings
The national centre of popular music in Sheffield consisted of four huge stainless steel drums which besieged an atrium area and an upper floor with a glazed roof. The drums’ tops were built to rotate in to the wind. The unique building had many nicknames. Some local people called it a drum, others a curling stone or a kettle and later on it was referred to as a museum after things changed leading to its closure. Every drum performed its own function. For example, the first drum called soundscaped which was created by Martin Ware, a musician and producer of Sheffield used it as a touring project, the other two called Perspectives were used for making music for different purposes and the last one was supposed to be used in showing music to people all over the world. ( HAGER,2005).
In the ground floor was a shop, a bar, a cafe, and office and exhibition space. The museum was at the top floor. Accommodating changing exhibitions in the last drum was never fulfilled due to the untimely closure of the National Centre of popular music. When asked why the building never succeeded to meet its objectives, the architects blamed the people who were responsible in making exhibition. This was not true because there were other reasons and in many areas, they (architect) were the cause. For instance, in designing the central stair, it was not wide enough to fit everything in display. Visitors too were not in a position of view to choose artists of their choice to perform. For example, there are instances we are told that visitors were forced to put their ears in a hole to guess the singer by listening to their voices. There are many other reasons that led to the closure of the National Centre of popular music; lack of public support from both local and national. The residents never or rarely promoted the project by even paying it a visit (touring). Some even criticized it by nicknaming it with funny names. (BANHAM, 2000).
The building was not designed to fit its function. The forms and materials used were not innovative. People referred to it as a museum but in real sense it was not or it was because the music was more into culture. This shows how they perceived the building. They did not consider the place to be interactive and highly technical where they could learn or get educated. In this scenario again, the architects are answerable. This was because the media I. e newspapers and radios did not broadcast or advertise to promote the popular culture. People saw it as a bad way to present popular music and that the building was not supposed to be a centre, where historical or economic development ideas were discussed. (SHEPHERD, 2003)
Another problem the NCPM faced was poor infrastructure. The inability to construct facilities that could back up the popular music’s function in the society and lack of long term strategies was instrumental to its failure. If the government would have intervened by enacting and implementing long term strategic policies immediately after the estimated number of visitors failed to attend, the Centre could have not been closed. The failure came about as a result of poor advice from the project’s ‘incompetent’ advisors and the curators who misread how people perceived popular music, how it was represented and its use. If the top management is poor, expect the middle and the low level to be even worse, and that is exactly what happened in the National Centre of popular music. (SMITH, 2006).
The music was so into culture that even the visitor’s expectations were disappointed. There was no creativity in the music because the centre never put more effort to make sure that it portrayed the potential of culture and broad educative effect in contexts. The centre‘s location was also a pull back. Poor infrastructure was a barrier to many activities in the area. It was not accessible due to poor road network. It could have done better if it was in the city or near the city. There were no surprises to the visitors and it reached a point when the visitors got bored with the centre. (HALE, THORNT & GATTON, 2010)
It also reached a point where people had to be paid some incentives in order to organize activities in the area. The client and the architects should have considered the location and with their competency in the field, make wise strategic decisions before the construction of the National Centre of popular music. A local producer and DJ, Winston Hazell, confirmed the site where the centre is as a place that has neither animation nor cultural consumption. He was heard saying that one had no reason to go to such a place unless he or she was called to a boring meeting or had an office there. He had further noted that the area didn’t meet Montgomery’s criteria. The Montgomery’s criteria were a study that focused on four locations which were international. Here, the cultural quarters divide among themselves the benefits of good urban places, offering very vital and dependable sets of activities. (ANDERSSON, 2012).
The architects should have built a multifunctional centre that would have brought broader cultural music into a big picture. The difference between the quarter where the centre (The National Centre of popular music) was and the other quarters is that it was so into production whereas the other quarters were more commercialized with shops, Bars and cafes. (BELL, 2004).
One of the center’s objectives was to be a place that would attract visitors from all corners of the country. It never worked for them and the region was even forced to lower the incentives because there was no way, they could expect the national movement of population to be high whereas the local movement was low. In attracting visitors, a nearby region (Manchester) was in a good location with advanced transport facilities and an international airport, an established culture that incorporated media. The media infrastructure comprised of the newspaper industry and the Granada television and helped the city on its own pop music of the late 1980s.
Manchester was more advanced and densely populated. Other than focusing on cultural production and consumption, it accessed music in the cultural context, expanded the foundation of the economy and many more. Manchester’s way of life makes one draw a mental picture where the two regions contrast markedly. Popular music is portrayed as a way of awareness or means of showing cultural change. The mono-culture quarter, which even in the city’s reimaging required financial support from the public, shows how far behind the region was (rural). (ADAMS MEDIA INC, 2009).
The center being referred to as a museum indicated that it had failed to perform or it was unable to meet its set goals e. g being a multi-functional Centre with academic institutions and broad contextual cultural music for local and national consumption.
The city’s social and economic growth was as a result of integration of urban economies and cultures and this led to commercial centers which were rich economically. The architects who had built the National center of popular music, were supposed to lay plans strategically. For instance, they should have put in mind the future expectations of the center to avoid cases like the central stair not being wide enough for the visitors to view musicians performing. They should have built the center in a way it could accommodate many functions and not just for one shop, one bar, one cafeteria e. t. c. It could have been effective to meet or to correct on these, if the architects had earlier on paid pre-visits to other centers performing the same tasks to gather ideas on the way forward. Competent architects with experience were the most preferable because they could have created a design that would fit all the functions the Centre intended to hold. Blaming and criticizing the exhibition as an instrumental reason for the center’s failure was very untrue. They played a part or were among the reasons as to why the national Centre for Popular Music never excelled. The other reasons were; overestimated capacity of the number of visitors in the Centre from a consultant’s report, high charges as entry fees, limited number of exhibits, lack of public space for parking the visitors vehicles and poor media infrastructure.
After learning the reasons that made the Centre to collapse, the city council of Sheffield launched a new cultural strategy to set the city’s direction. The council’s vision for the city of Sheffield is that it emerges to be a Centre for the European culture that will help individuals and the community at large to be successful, it will ensure that all citizens, communities and businesses fully participate in realization of strong economy and that the council will aim to stick with innovative and high quality design all through the buildings in the city and make sure that the environment is green with open public spaces for public use. The cultural policy of Sheffield is meant to create high quality cultural spaces for the people living there.