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Arts Council approach is not dumbing down


I was extremely disappointed by the tone of Clare Melhuish's article 'Arts Council gambles on Changing Rooms approach' (AJ 19.6.03).

The whole point of Bringing Architecture Home, a booklet produced for the Arts Council in collaboration with Elle Decoration, was, contrary to the implication of your article, to empower people to engage an architect's specialist services, rather than those of Bob the have-a-go builder. The objective was to demystify the role of the architect and debunk the popular notion that they are overpaid egomaniacs with little relevance to everyday life.

So to suggest a collaboration with a mainstream magazine is an 'easier option' and indicative of 'dumbing down' is at best ignorant and at worst patronising. To dismiss with a derisory 'interesting' the fact that 37 per cent of Daily Mail readers listed space and light as the most important consideration in a new home, and to prefix a 'but' before '58 per cent chose homestyle magazines as their main inspiration', is to miss the most important point entirely.

The public increasingly knows Libeskind from Lautner and it is precisely these nonspecialist readers of mainstream magazines that pay your wages.

Architects seldom commission other architects.

Furthermore, how exactly does it benefit architecture when its own press describes the profession as 'deep cultural experience at the interface of space, materiality and social routines'? What! Such sloppy journalism only reinforces the impression of architecture as a discipline peopled by snotty pseudo-intellectuals.

There's a big difference between the cosmetic interior finishes of Changing Rooms and architecture. Perhaps if Melhuish had actually read our booklet right through to the section which covered VAT and Defects Liability Period, she might have picked up on that.

Michelle Ogundehin, editor-atlarge, Elle Decoration, and writer/editor of Bringing Architecture Home

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