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KATHERINE SHONFIELD

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The Lord Chancellor's assertion that wallpaper should last 60 to 70 years has interesting implications. Taken literally, internal decorations would survive beyond current expectations for the longevity of structure and external fabric. This evokes a vision of the city as Modernism-in-reverse. It reminds us that when a terrace of houses is demolished, and the decorated walls of living-rooms and bedrooms stand exposed mid-air (in suspended animation for years on end), their presence is far more poignant than architecturally sanctioned structure. Gottfried Semper would love him.

On a more general note, Lord Irvine's expenditure on quality is unpopular because he is too foreign by half. We point to the irrefutable evidence of the Third Reich and its desire to build for 1000 years. We continue to feel that any construction which is not make-do is the thin end of a wedge leading to dictatorship and totalitarianism; witness the attempts to prevent Lutyens replacing the temporary with the permanent Cenotaph after the First World War.

The trouble with this argument is that it confuses the coincidence of two characteristics with the idea that one has actually caused the other. In reality, if the popular view continues to be that it is reprehensible to pay for long-life construction, it will not be the housing estates, schools and public pavements, belonging to everyone, that will be built to last. It will be the private apartments of unrepresentative, unelected members of the British upper class.

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