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. . . criticism impoverishes depth of social critique

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Letters

Austin Williams' review of Wa l l s Have Feelings says more about his confusions than Katherine Shonfield's arguments (AJ 22.2.01). As a colleague and friend throughout the book's genesis, I have seen them evolve, and I hope you will allow me to offer some clarification.

Williams unites a misty-eyed penchant for 'social critique' with a worryingly uncritical appreciation of 'experimentation' and 'expertise'. I suppose this is just possible if you have such as rigid notion of 'social critique' as Williams appears to have, predicated on, in late 1940s Britain, 'an end of empire, reduced geo-political status. . .

and revocation of racial supremacy'.

But Williams' 'social critique' is not some objectified and universal bundle of ideas against which film and architecture might be assessed. It is rather a subjective fabrication actively formed, in all probability, by experiences of film and architecture. To exclude the contribution of cultural phenomena to social critiques is not just to impoverish the potential for understanding, but also to call into question the whole possibility of meaningful experimentation or useful expertise.

Atrophied social critique is the surest way to the 'paranoid' architecture.

Far from falling into this trap, as Williams implies, Shonfield uses insights from film, fiction and anthropology to expand the range and scope of social critique. It is a pity that Williams did not realise this.

Jeremy Melvin, London N6

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