Jeremy Melvin has missed the whole point of the exhibition, 'Manifesto: Fifty Years of British Radicals', and confused radicals with anarchists. Perhaps the exhibition is not well designed for architects who only read picture books, but it is worth persevering with reading the top half of the boards, and taking home the tear- off manifestoes. Here, in one place, are gathered something of those manifestoes, written documents and drawings, rather than buildings, which have greatly influenced British, and world, architecture over the last 50 years.
Some of these manifestoes actually make the point that the visual quality of architecture is not necessarily its most important. As Matrix puts it: 'Buildings are for the most part just background, not important for what they look like, but for how people can live and work in them.'
Secondly, Melvin has overlooked the interactive nature of the exhibition, another aspect of architecture pioneered by some of the radicals, and which allows everyone to offer their definition of radical architecture. According to Chris Nasah of Knak Design, 'Radical architecture is pushing the 'limits', maximising the 'creative potential' of every constituent member of society. It goes beyond buildings and includes 'strategies.''
Ironically, Melvin's final point gives the clue to the answers of the two questions posed by the curators: 'What is architecture?' and 'Who are we?' In my Post-it comment headed 'millennium MANifesto', I combined these into one really radical question of 'Why do we build?' - which, you may be surprised to find, is answered in the Old Testament. The Bible not only shows who we are, but also gives many reasons, good and bad, for why we build.
As we celebrate the second millennium of the Man whom the prophets foretold would save the world, perhaps we should read the New Testament gospels and see how He can save each of us, and renew our architecture for the equal benefit of all.
Leslie Barker, Alperton HA0