Northumberland Street sculptural features that complimented the Haymarket Metro fiasco are still in place. These have always reminded me of the kind of public art popular on the Continent in the 60s to provide cover to those localities where citizens with the wrong sort of grandparents where rounded up for transporting to death camps.
In straight forward financial terms, according to what has been made public at any rate, the re-development of the Laing Art Gallery must be at the top - 1.4 million GBP.
The Laing's entrance suffered from 'looking the wrong way' tucked down a side street. A sensible plan was made to change this and a brand new entrance was constructed on Portland Place, immediately visible from several points. The result was pleasing and, I am reliably informed, successful in attracting more visitors. The Laing goes about its work quietly and shows (for free) many touring exhibitions of national and international quality. The arrival of the Blue Carpet was a another matter.
It was decided by someone or other, that the pedestrianised space outside the gallery's new entrance had to be something more than pavement, seats and trees. The concept that won the day was artist architect Thomas 'Bing of the Bang' Hetherwick. Mr Hetherwick was then at the beginning of his public career and netting him seemed to many in authority to have been something of a coup. The original concept was of a spangly 'carpet' that would glow with reflected light at night. Problems - and I am treading carefully here - arose. So did the costs. At the time it was reported that the material used to produce the spangles was not easily contrived. The final result was mixed. Essentially what was got was less Blue Carpet, rather more Grey Blanket. The trees are nice.
Looking down on all this from his column is Lord Grey, he of the famous blend of tea and 1834 Reform Act, also known as the Great Reform Act. He is rightly commemorated and stands tall, a testament to something beyond money and shopping.