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a life in architecture - paul foot

The award-winning investigative journalist Paul Foot admits to a total lack of knowledge of architecture, and can only cite Foster's Millennium Bridge (pictured) as a structure which he likes. He is far more interested in the social aspects of building construction.

Foot laments the way that profits led to a decline and lowering of 'fundamental socialist ideals', such as the Parker Morris standards for quality in the construction of council housing.

While not perfect, he says, the New Towns were created as environments in which people would want to live, and were not motivated by profit.

He sees a preoccupation with profit in the spreading of extremely similar buildings across the fields of towns like Saltash, creating 'facelessness in an area which is the exact opposite'.

Foot defends Garden Cities - 'Ridiculous though some aspects may be, I bet a lot of people were very glad to get out of the East End'- and finds far more damaging the effects of the high-rise systems buildings of the late 1960s and early '70s.

With nowhere for people to play, walk or move around on the ground, and without proper porterage or reliable lifts, the blocks became 'extended lavatories', since anyone could come in and go out.

Among the consequences, well chronicled by Foot, was the 1968 Ronan Point disaster in Newham, where a small gas explosion caused the progressive collapse of an entire wall.

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