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Birmingham Foyer looks like a prison

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Believing as I do that there is nothing so practical as a good theory, I make no apologies for basing my evaluation of a building on published theories of what makes good architecture, rather than on personal opinion, so I suppose I shall continue to mystify Martin Stockley (Letters, aj 30.7.98).

My definition of an 'active building front' is taken from Responsive Environments, and the Birmingham Foyer does not fulfil any of its criteria. Yes, the ground floor is full of active uses, but they have no engagement with street. They are invisible. The building has no 'transparency' as defined by Kevin Lynch in Managing the Sense of a Region; the ability of a person in the street to understand, by sensory means, what the building is for and what is happening inside it.

I think Mr Stockley misunderstands what I mean by 'social programme'. Put simply, I mean that a building should communicate its purpose and its values to the outer world. I believe this is an uncontentious and widely accepted precept of architecture. My window cleaner subscribes to this theory, and he says the Foyer looks like a prison. He is not the only one who says this.



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