TV's Restoration is to be encouraged
I sympathise with architecture, I really do. The profession is struggling to find its true identity - does it want to be a pretentious collection of waffle-spouting intellectuals or a genuine contributor to modern society?
Take the review of Restoration, the BBC's attempt to popularise building salvage (AJ 14.8.03). Claire Melhuish suggests that a reduction in architectural programming on TV would be a good thing, quoting Baudrillard's sniffy criticism of mass culture. Fine, if that's the direction the profession wants to take: hiding in a calm corner of white space in earnest discussion of 'abstractness and concreteness' (Astragal 14.8.03).
However, the profession cannot expect to be welcomed and appreciated by the man in the street if that is the attitude.
If architects want to be involved in buildings that affect the everyday - the 200,000 new homes in the Thames Gateway, for instance - then they need to be prepared to communicate at the level of the everyday.
Television tries to entertain the masses - not educate - although if an element of learning is introduced it is a bonus.
The introduction of celebrity endorsement into Restoration is perhaps unnecessary in terms of deciding which building merits our vote, but is entirely necessary in terms of giving couch potato Joe Public a hook into the subject.
The fact that a wide range of public figures are prepared to take part is, I think, an indicator that buildings are of interest to them. And if that encourages one or two people to re-examine the buildings in their own neighbourhoods, that can only be a good thing.
The ultimate measure of success will be whether the programme generates funding, not just for the 'winner' but for the range of finalists showcased during the coming weeks - certainly the locals representing each restoration trust and charity must be delighted to get such prime-time advertising for their otherwise voluntary and illfunded efforts.
So I urge architects to be prepared to drop their pretensions and be prepared to muck in - positive images of construction are needed on TV if the whole sector is to continue to thrive and attract new students.
Tanya Ross, Bath