The Hub in Milton Keynes is a postmodern – well everything is modern/postmodern in MK – piazza surrounded by tall buildings, hotels, apartments, restaurants and bars. It is about a 5 minute walk from the railway station and is managed by Broadoak Management Ltd, a Bedfordshire based firm who do residential and mixed-use property management. The square even has its own website which includes an events page and a directory of outlets. The strapline is “Vibrant restaurant, hotel, café, hotel, business and retail quarter in the heart of the city. A lifestyle choice…”
Outside of all the commercial bullshit on the website, and the slightly jaded look of some of the surrounding buildings, I think the Hub works pretty well, certainly on a summer’s day. I was there for a couple of days in July, actually staying in the Hub itself in the Ramada Encore. When I was there, little kiddywinkies were playing in the water fountains and whooping with delight as the summer sun was baking the concrete all around us. There were plenty of outside places to sit, even seating that seemed to be an integral part of the square itself. It was also a lively place at night: you could move from one bar to another making the most of happy hour and have a bit of nosh later.
Glenn Howells was the architectural firm who designed the apartments in the Hub. They were completed in 2004 but look much older. My brother said he thought it was the lack of reflective glass that makes the buildings look old, and I think he’s right. Also, the open windows tend to create a textured look and detract from a smooth seamless façade. I zoomed in as much as I could with my camera from the bar in my hotel to the apartments opposite and this is the shot I got of the windows facing me. It looks like a scene from Koyaanisqatsi. But this is no failed modernist housing project circa 1950/60s, it’s a postmodern building that isn’t even 10 years old yet.
Nevertheless, I don’t want to criticise the Hub too much, as I really enjoyed it. It was great on a summer's day and definitely met the aims of the Italian renaissance piazza or plaza, where local people are supposed to commune with each other in a lovely (lively) continental-cosmopolitan atmosphere. So I’ll finish with this quote from Italy Magazine:
When I enter a piazza for the first time, I feel a delicious frisson as if being both the spectator and the one being observed, like a teenager at a dance. For me a town is not judged by its museums and masterpieces, but by its piazza. At its best it is an island of tranquillity, a convenient place to meet, a market place, concert venue and playground…
For the whole article, which is worth reading, click here: An Italian Institution – The Piazza