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How refreshing to read your building study on Gothic Design Practice's work at St Edmondsbury Cathedral (AJ 08.09.05) which took a considered, analytical review of the design qualities of the completion of this iconic landmark structure despite (or even as a result of ) its Gothic style.

As an urban designer, a CABE enabler and an architect practising in the belief that good contextual design transcends style, I have long awaited such a balanced appraisal of an unfashionable building's qualities - no matter the style in which it is designed.

More than a decade ago I presented a keynote paper to the Institute of Historic Building Conservation suggesting that conservation officers and English Heritage staff should appraise the qualities of proposals before them on the merits of their design qualities, and not on their style. When proposing extensions to traditional/historic buildings many architects will have had their proposals for extending in traditional style criticised for not being 'modern' and also proposals in a contemporary idiom for not being 'pastiche'. Such criticism is often based on personal prejudice without any consideration of genuine design issues.

The need for all involved in the appraisal and evaluation of projects (whether planners or the press) to consider the benefits of underlying design qualities (for example, as presented in Design Quality Indicators) rather than personal preferences on style is paramount if we are to enable architects to develop a sensitive, varied and intelligently rich architectural style in response to our urban and rural development needs.

Thank you, Alan Powers, for leading the intelligent way.

Derek Latham, Latham Architects, Derby PS. Compliments also to the modesty of Warwick Pethers, who used his entire 'Architect's Account' to inform us of the contribution of other members of the design team, rather than his own input!

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