Monday, April 10, 2006

Bling v Refurbishment

Kevin McCLoud designer and presenter of Channel 4's Grand Designs became the latest person to openly criticise government's attitude to demolition and new build.

"There is a lot of vanity at work here, the vanity of politicians, architects, developers." he said in yesterday's Independent
"They all want to create things that stand out and say, 'Look at me'. I am making a plea for forgotten buildings. They all have a historic value. If you remove them you are slowly unpicking history. There is a ghastly kind of utopian ideology about it."

"For 50 years, we have been complaining about how the post-war construction boom unnecessarily erased so many good buildings. But we are making similar mistakes now, in the pursuit of bling."

This is an interesting debate. SAVE Britain's Heritage made some very similar points in their recent response to the pathfinders a couple of months ago:

and got a very caustic response from ODPM

But there is a very important point here that government seem to be blind to; buildings stand for more than just their use. It's easy to say that aesthetics, history, and heritage don't matter as much as homelessness, affordability and housing supply. But that's not to say they don't matter at all.

Of course some buildings need demolishing and some need building. But what McCloud is tapping into is a widely held view that government views new buildings as good and old buildings as bad.

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