The critics accused the Malloy circle of making a Romantic cult of augmented reality and they were right, up to a point. We were Futurists too, but it was the bunny slopes of Romanticism which got people paying attention.
'Romantic' was a name that each of us inner circlers at that time would have borne with pride. To understand that, you have to remember what we were kicking against in our everyday life. A city which had been designed and desecrated by successive generations of incompetents – ugly as sin, as cheap as a cheap thing, as user-friendly as a Latin smartphone, with its fingers in its ears to the future. It needed more than beauty, however you define beauty, but beauty was a startt.
When Alasdair suggested that the city skyline should incorporate mountain views from Caspar David Friedrich paintings, he was getting Shocked of Sutton's attention to make a point. Not that the city's Great and Good had no sense of humour – that would be shooting fish in a barrel. But that Birmingham needed to think big in a new way, away from corporate dumbassery or peak oil rabbit-in-the-stream fatalism that once prevailed in these parts.
As a blank canvass for beauty, with a surface reality of crumbling post-war infrastructure and latter-day quick-up quick-down cowboy-jobs overlaying neglected Victorian strata, the city needed us. Who wouldn't want to make this more beautiful. And, lest we forget, more meaningful.