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Architecture needs freedom to flourish

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Letters

Louis Hellman must be congratulated for spotting the link between the Prince ofWales' lecture and the petrol protest (AJ 14.9.00) and for so wittily drawing attention to the truth of many of the Prince's remarks. The Prince's courage in daring to question some of our present-day values stands in sorry contrast to the architectural establishment's craven acceptance of the status quo. The value-free architecture to which the Prince objects, whether genetically modified or not, is an architecture that seems incapable of describing any worthwhile end that is not technological. This seems to me to be a tautology.

The Prince and the RIBA president could however both be right.

Multi-national corporations will no doubt demand and get their valuefree architecture. Ordinary people, on the other hand, may prefer to live and play in places that can reflect something of their humanity. They might choose places that respect their memories, and in their homes look to an architecture which recognises their natural longing for permanence and security.

Hellman's dichotomy need not exist. Splendid popular housing can be found in America, displaying in its architecture both Classicism and craftsmanship. It has nothing to do with feudalism but everything to do with the health of private institutions. If these institutions are allowed to flourish, then the public may be treated to an organic architecture that is more attuned to their real needs and wishes.

For this to happen we need less intervention by the state, not more.

These are the lessons I draw from both the Prince and the protesters.

John Melvin, Oxfordshire

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