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'Ponderous' BedZED poses more problems


It is difficult not to support the BedZED philosophy, which places 'sustainability' high on the development agenda (AJ 25.9.03), but are we alone in finding the resulting projects worrying? Could this be another 'worthy' bandwagon destined to create more problems than it solves (like many other 'solutions' to our housing problems during the past 50 years)?

As architects, our role is usually to provide some order, design economically and create delight in arrangement of form and use of materials. We need to design buildings that are a pleasure to use and tolerant of change, but history has shown that, especially where housing is concerned, a degree of humility and ordinariness is usually a virtue.

BedZED's models are experimental and therefore expensive.

They are deterministic. They reflect a dogma that, however worthy, results in highly prescriptive architectural solutions.

They are inflexible and intolerant of change. They deliberately ignore the traditional, urban pattern of streets and squares, which provide a natural order to the townscape, and provide little private open space.

It is good to be creating more 'mixed-use' communities, and in that respect the planning initiative being launched by Zogolovitch and Allford is to be applauded, but does sustainability have to default to such ponderous architectural solutions? It would be interesting to see the various initiatives being so bravely championed coming together to create projects that, while addressing problems of urban development, might fit more comfortably into our urban environment.

Charles Thomson, Charles Thomson Rivington Street Studio, London

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