Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre

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Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre
Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre is a regional shopping centre located in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England which is about 50 miles (80 km) north-west of London. It is managed in two separate parts, thecentre:mk and Midsummer Place. Thecentre:mk is a grade II listed building.

The Milton Keynes Development Corporation began work on the original "Shopping Building" in 1973 as the largest building of Central Milton Keynes. The architects were Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop, and Chris Woodward; and the engineers were Felix Samuely and Partners. The design followed the minimalist principles of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and envisaged glass-covered shopping streets or arcades on the scale of the Galleria in Milan. Derek Walker likened it to the Crystal Palace. The building's glass-and-steel envelope accommodated 130 shops and six department stores, arranged down two parallel daylit arcades, planted with sub-tropical and temperate trees. The shopping area was opened on 25 September 1979 by Margaret Thatcher. It was described in 1993 as "still the best-looking if no longer the biggest shopping centre in the British Isles". In 1993, the building was extended at the western end, over what was the City Square. Now with a length of 720 metres, it was documented in the 1997 Guinness Book of Records to contain the longest shopping mall in the world. In architectural style this extension is similar to the original, though the join can be detected internally by the low ceiling in the extensions of the two main arcades. Midsummer Place is effectively a southwards extension of the centre, but it was a planning requirement that it did not physically attach to the original building. Midsummer Place was designed by GMW Architects of London and opened in 2000. Part of Midsummer Boulevard had to be closed to allow this to be built.

Whereas some large shopping centres have several levels, at Milton Keynes the public access to all the shops is from the ground floor. Some of the shops then have two or three floors inside. A service road for thecentre:mk runs above the shops so that large lorries servicing the shops at roof level, removing the service roads and loading bays at ground level that mar so many large shopping centres; while the Midsummer Place shops are serviced from below, with car parking above them. This means all deliveries take place out of view of the shoppers. Originally, the internal landscaping designed by Roger Griffiths and Tony Southard was very lavish with 47 plant beds with large plants and trees; temperate in the northerly arcade and semi-tropical in the southerly one. The planters were finished in the same travertine as the floor, but approximately one third of these have been removed since the building was opened, with consequent loss of planting.
There is an open-air garden square ( Queen's Court) which is currently closed for redevelopment as a restaurant quarter; and a 1,800-square-metre covered events area ( Middleton Hall). During 2010, Middleton Hall was used as a temporary home venue for the Milton Keynes Lions basketball team, housing a 1,200-seat arena. Midsummer Place was a later phase, built around an existing oak tree in an open area ( Oak Court) that survived until it succumbed to acute oak decline from about 2008. Outside the centre is an open-air market. Also, on the other side of Midsummer Boulevard, there is another building (the Food Centre) containing food shops.

A kinetic sculpture ( Circle of Light, 1980) by Liliane Lijn hangs from the ceiling of Midsummer Arcade. The mechanism has not operated for many years. It was originally floodlit at night and is on the axis of the midsummer sun on which Midsummer Boulevard is accurately orientated. Silbury Arcade contains three bronze figures ( Dream Flight, Flying Carpet and High Flyer, 1989) by Philomena Davidson Davis, former president of the Royal British Society of Sculptors. Nearby, in Deer Walk, a mosaic pavement (circa AD 320) from the Roman villa at Bancroft is on display. These works were previously sited in Queen's Court. Before being redeveloped, Queen's Court also contained:
  • a sundial and associated bollards ( Bollards, 1979) by Tim Minett
Oak Court contains:
  • a stainless steel sculpture ( Acorns and Leaves, 2000) by Tim Ward
  • the Concrete Cows (1978) by Liz Leyh
The Midsummer Place building contains:
  • a bronze seat ( Sitting on History, 1996) by Bill Woodrow
  • a stained-glass window (2000) by Anne Smyth
  • an animated clock with a frog that blows bubbles (2000), conceived by Kit Williams, and similar to the clock at Telford Shopping Centre.

Grade II listing for original building
In November 2008, English Heritage (the Government's advisor on historic buildings) recommended to the Culture Minister that the original building be designated a "II*" listed building which, the owners say, would curtail severely their ability to alter it if awarded. The Twentieth Century Society responds that this belief is unfounded. The building, designed by Derek Walker Associates for Milton Keynes Development Corporation, is a good example of Miesian modernist minimalism in glass and steel. It won a number of prizes when constructed and remains a valued element of Milton Keynes. In July 2010, the Heritage Minister, John Penrose, advised the owners that he had decided that the building merited a Grade II listing, to applause from the 20th Century Society and disquiet from the owners.

The Milton Keynes Partnership and the centre owners aim to expand thecentre:mk. In the original plan (suspended since mid 2007), Phase 1 of the redevelopment programme would include a new department store on the south side (for which the outdoor market would be moved southwards and Secklow Gate flyover would be closed), the colonnade on the west of Middleton Hall would be removed by expanding the shops into it, Crown Walk would be opened to allow pedestrian access through the centre after the shops close (shortening evening journeys on foot considerably), a restaurant quarter would open in a re-landscaped Queens Court, and an "enhanced" entrance would be created on the north side. Phase 2 may include expansion at the eastern end. However, these plans were put on hold by the centre owners and only the work in Queens Court went ahead. The plans are controversial because they would mean the loss of the unique minimalist appearance of the building. The closure of Secklow Gate will impede north-south vehicle movements and would seem to prevent access to the shops' first-floor loading bays. Additionally, objectors say that the plans to erect dwellings in the central area run the risk of hampering movement around and in and out of the centre as well as spoiling views of the shopping building. Independently of the Centre management plans, Milton Keynes Council transport strategy calls for Midsummer Boulevard to be re-opened through the wide arc connecting Midsummer Place to thecentre:mk to facilitate a "public transport spine" bus route along the Boulevard, from the station to Campbell Park.


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