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technical & practice

In CABE Space's latest booklet, What are we scared of: The value of risk in designing public space', four authors examine the need to tolerate risk 'as a necessary stimulus for us to be able to understand, enjoy and deal with our urban environment', writes Austin Williams.

This is a really interesting premise and a welcome spur to the debate on what sort of future we should be building - politically and socially, as well as physically. The opening essays are liberated by dealing with abstractions, the concepts of risk; and the latter essays are constrained by dealing with practicalities, which reflects the nature of the debate. Charles Landry's contribution is helpful in that 'an absence of trust in humanity shapes our perception of risk' and that we need to take personal responsibility. However, moving away from the abstract in search of a mechanism, he ends with a call for more systematic riskassessment and for us all to develop more collaborative risk-mitigation strategies.

Dorothy Rowe's contribution slightly overstates that the 'great benefit of paranoia is that it means that someone is thinking of you.' She ends her intelligent, rhetorical essay rather weakly by insisting that we need an on-going public debate which is not 'confined to the articulate and the educated'. This reflects the desire to avoid the 'risk' of being charged with elitism and marginalisation. It seems that risk culture is all pervasive but this readable, intelligent booklet is a very handy fillip to the debate.

Free copies of the booklet are available at: http: //www. cabespace. org. uk/data/pdfs/risk. pdf

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