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Don't stereotype - we are not all uncreative

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LETTERS

Many of your more enlightened readers (both planners and architects) must have experienced a sinking feeling reading David Taylor's editorial (AJ 30.8.01).

Taylor refers to 'the average units churned out by volume housebuilders, ushered through by planners who go into 'minded to refuse'mode the moment a single faintly Modernist house is put to committee'. This demonstrates a complete ignorance of the realities on the ground.

There are, of course, instances of planners suppressing creativity through ignorance of architectural history, theory and principles. However, in my experience, such lack of knowledge is equally prevalent within the architectural profession. I recall referring to Lubetkin's iconic inter-war buildings to a senior partner in a large architectural practice, and his responding that he had never heard of Lubetkin and could not be expected to know every obscure architect!

Many planners are desperate to encourage creative, contemporary architecture, but find some developers and architects intent on bland 'anywhere' buildings (I won't flatter them with the term architecture) and debased historical parodies.

While there are many talented and creative architects, there are also many who treat architecture as a purely technical exercise and have little interest in theory, history, or contemporary movements in design. The point is that both the planning and architectural professions contain members with greatly varying skills and understanding in both urban and architectural design.

It really is time to move on from the futile, polarised and generalised arguments between architects and planners. I consider talented and creative architects to be my colleagues, with a common purpose, not my opponents. The real conflict is not between planners and architects, but between the more enlightened and design-literate members of both professions, and those that think good design involves adding a pediment and some brick detailing to a box, and some planting in the leftover spaces around the car parking.

The real issue to be addressed is education: how to raise the awareness of both planning and architectural professions, elected members, developers and others involved with the development process.

Publications such as the AJ should be leading the way in highlighting this issue, not reinforcing professional stereotyping and bigotry. Both professions need to put their own houses in order before criticising the other. There should be a common purpose in promoting awareness, knowledge and best practice in urban and architectural design.

Dave Chetwyn, senior planning officer (design and conservation), Stoke-on-Trent

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