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CRITIC'S CHOICE

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In tackling post-industrial landscapes in the former East Germany, the latest IBA raises questions about how much intervention is desirable - about what should be valued and left as it is (see pages 25-37). The questions apply just as much to our own major redevelopment site, the Thames Gateway and a new publication from the Essex Development & Regeneration Agency, 350 Miles: An Essex Journey (free from www. realessex. co. uk) could certainly guide decisions.

Though it ranges beyond the Thames Gateway's designated area, this modest book - a collaboration between Ken Worpole and photographer Jason Orton - comes closer to capturing the landscape qualities that are at stake there than anything I've seen. Worpole writes evocatively of the meeting of land and water and the myriad forms it takes with the changing tide; of the coastal architecture that encompasses early Modernism, boatyards and military remains; of 'microgeographies' that mean this landscape can only be understood on foot. Orton's photos are an excellent complement, conveying bleak or luminous expanses of marsh and shoreline and the blurred boundaries between man-made and natural as shingle invades tarmac or steps crumble into the sea.

Without sentimentality but with feeling, the book shows a landscape that 'can be valued on its own terms as a form of maritime or post-industrial pastoral' - a landscape all too vulnerable, though, to developers' ambitions.

It would be good if copies could be given to everyone attending the Thames Gateway Forum at ExCel in London's Docklands on 23-24 November (www.

thamesgatewayforum. com). There are keynote speeches from David Miliband, Tessa Jowell, Ken Livingstone and John Sorrell and an impressive line-up of participants in 24 separate sessions.

These deal with such topics as funding, transport, renewable energy and the impact of the Olympics, but among the most pertinent must be one on Inspirational Development and another, linking neatly with Worpole and Orton's book, called Thames Gateway: Opportunity or Danger? Speakers at the latter include Nigel Kersey of the CPRE and Jonathan Glancey, another enthusiast for the Thames Estuary as it is.

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