The banal name game

The banal name game

John Duckers, the business commentator who West Midlands leaders love to hate, is appalled at the names planners are dreaming up for Birmingham’s new buildings and districts.

Welcome as it is that new schemes are going up aplenty in Birmingham city centre, some of the banal names are beginning to stick in my craw.

One, Two and Three Snowhill are bad enough – they sound like prison wings: “Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court and it is now my duty to pass sentence.

“You are a habitual criminal who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard and presumably accepts imprisonment in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences — you will go to HMP Snowhill for five years.”

You get my meaning! But now we have the Birmingham Smithfield name for the new ‘living and entertainments’ district which replace the markets area. It’s an abomination! Surely we can think up something that doesn’t simply ape London. Are our creative types – Birmingham has far too many luvvies these days – completely devoid of talent?

We’re also facing the nomenclature of the Argent-led Paradise and Bruntwood’s Cornerblock, the former home of KPMG.

Don’t get me wrong … the re-development of the old library site on Paradise Circus is very badly needed. Looking at artist impressions, the architecture seems an improvement if nothing particularly special – bets please on whether it will all be knocked down again in another 30 or 40 years. But ‘paradise’ it isn’t. And I rather fear it’s another gift to our competitors who so delight in disparaging Birmingham. Say to a Londoner: “I’m off to Paradise today” and their first response would likely be to flee for their lives for fear you are a jihadi suicide bomber.

Their second response – if you ever caught up with them – on being told it is part of Birmingham would probably be to crease up in laughter. Paradise is plain silly.

As for Bruntwood and its Cornerblock, it might set you wondering whether the name was dreamed up by the 16-year-old work-experience girl. More likely the outcome of some marketing consultancy away day in Reggie Perrin and Sunshine Desserts vein. “That will be £100,000 please.”

Maybe some sort of combination between cornerback (American football) and blockhouse (British Army). Whatever, it’s the bizarre new name for Two Cornwall Street which, when complete later this year, will provide 110,000 sq ft of Grade A workspace in the heart of the Colmore Business District.

The new-look building, taking in a wholly out of place ‘rooftop oasis’, has been redesigned by Birmingham’s Glenn Howells Architects. In addition to office space, it will feature bike storage, showers and a yoga studio, all compulsory these days given the fragile temperament of brainwashed executive health freaks. Rob Valentine, head of sales and asset management at Bruntwood in Birmingham, spouts the usual corporate psycho-babble.

“The workplace is changing and we see this reflected in the wants and needs of our customers. Increasingly business owners are seeking a workspace that gives them flexibility and helps them to develop a strong culture which encourages collaboration, creativity and a sense of belonging within their workforce.

“With this in mind we specifically designed the building around our corner blocks of connectivity, wellbeing, flexibility and opportunity. Given that we’re reinventing the building we felt that the name needed a revamp too, and it was apt to choose Cornerblock.”

One wonders what Birmingham’s favourite inmate Lennie Godber would have made of it. Pass the sick bag, Fletch!