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An open letter to Baroness Blackstone

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letters

I am writing in response to the excellent interview with Baroness Blackstone in last week's issue (AJ 4.9.01).Many of us will heave a sigh of relief that at last we have a minister who 'knows about the subject'. Those of us who know our recently elected RIBA president through his former weekly column in the AJ feel sure you will have an identity of interest when you meet.

CABE will welcome your interest. Whether it has the expertise to be involved in listing post-war buildings is a moot point. Such knowledge, together with amplified resources, could enable it to cover proposals to reuse worthy buildings, helping English Heritage to foster regard for the built legacy as a resource, rather than a straitjacket.

True, good design is, and should give, good value for money, but PFI can encourage skimped quality of building.

High densities, fine, but these are not synonymous with tall building and here I would refer you to Towards an Urban Renaissance, the report of The Urban Task Force, which clearly demonstrates this. Recognition that tall buildings do not further community was apparent well over 30 years ago, resulting in a switch to low-rise housing.

Their disruptive effect on towns and cities was clear much earlier.

The electronic revolution means that a reappraisal of the workplace is urgent. How much new building is necessary when work could be carried out from home? What effect do tall buildings have on the human psyche?

Sir Henry Wotton identified the elements of 'True Building' in 1624, as 'Commoditie, Fairness, and Delight'. This architects' Hippocratic Oath is unequivocal in spelling out our obligations.

We should ensure that when walking the streets, all derive pleasure from what they see. I believe out-of-scale tall buildings - Mammon's megaliths - are destructive in this respect.

The new century demands a reappraisal. I am heartened by your approach. Two books for your shelf - London: The Unique City by Steen Eiler Rasmussen and Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier.

Now it only remains to wish you well in your new job; above all, that it will give you pleasure.

John Bancroft, Haywards Heath, Sussex

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