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Time to fight back against the pressures of public opinion

The concept of freedom changes from time to time. The Aristotle school of thought believed that freedom came from a sense of reason and that if a group of beings that may resemble humans had no reason, their destiny was slavery.

Later, with the birth of the US, much debate was concerned with the idea of individual freedom, from which came the concept of a democracy of consensus. The result of this has been a flattening of society, by giving up to the pressures of public opinion. Some dictates are more liberal than public opinion.

It is possible to debate the concept of freedom forever, but the freedom often comes with age, where the individual is unmoved and uninterested in the idea of a mass view.

Never has the fact been so graphically illustrated to me more than watching BB King perform at the Albert Hall. He is a fat 76 year old who explains to the audience that, after a long life, some parts of his body are allowed to give up after years of support (in this case his legs). He sits. He sits and dances. He sits, dances and directs. In spite of a dissolute career, he still has ideas. It was not until later that I realised that he had not performed a song all the way through without some interlude of him talking. His exhibition was a tribute to confidence, that happened to occur in front of 4,500 people.

This ability to throw convention out of the window and not perform a set of songs or tunes comes with age. Years of experience allow the performer to act naturally and simply enjoy what they know they are good at.

It is unusual in the world of popular music for musicians to reach the age of 76 - let alone to continue to perform.But in architecture, it is normal for the architect to be elderly before they relax. At 60 plus, all those concerns about style and what others might or might not be doing are irrelevant.

A good practitioner begins to think the unthinkable in the knowledge that they do not have to prove anything.

This is useful, and yet sadly, in the UK, they are often forgotten. People seem to be more interested in a good terracotta cladding panel than an idea. Ideas and concepts, have, by and large, been neglected, in favour of the 'real'building. Gone are the heady days of Architectural Designmagazine, which actively encouraged a speculation on the future and the uncertain. Within those pages we used to come across a younger version of the architectural BB King - namely Cedric Price.

Price has maintained a consistency in his thinking over a long period, but in more recent times, he has got used to his own radicalism, which allows him to test them out from different points of view. Today he is concerned with words such as wit, providence and delight. I also suspect there is a healthy respect for those things that cannot always be explained in logical terms.

This is the art of acceptance.

His Fun Palace or Potteries Thick Belt all anticipated many of the issues in the world today. Sadly, their relevance is often overlooked because they are seen as stylistically dated. This is a nonsense, because neither of these projects was concerned with any idea of a current aesthetic, and if Price was to rework these projects, they would surely only change through the inclusion of new realisation, new technology and a different geographical context.

Cedric's performances are, as King's, confident and relaxed and are not like a lecture. These events are full of entertainment, observations and ideas, but most importantly, everyone loves him.

WA, from my desk at home

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