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Green space must consider urban place

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Your article by Bill Dunster was stimulating (AJ 13.7.00).

The main message that came across was that the time is now right for architects to take the lead. Dunster is right. Not since the 1960s has the economic and political climate been so good. We must take up the challenge. We have, or should have, the skills to pull together the necessary expertise in the industry and create a vision for the future in higher-density housing.

The energy and enthusiasm with which Dunster addresses 'green' issues is extremely valuable. But - and it is a big but - will the BedZed scheme be sustainable for people who live there? What makes people want to live somewhere? The scheme has many qualities which will attract particular types and lifestyles but people move and times change and will the future residents have the choice to live there? This is particularly important with social housing where there is less choice about where to live.We know from the past that bold ideas solve many problems but with the best of intentions they can inadvertently create future problems.

From my experience at HTA, residents welcome strong ideas from architects but these should not be imposed. Sustainable development must keep all the issues in balance. It must be able to demonstrate how it uses less of the world's resources in a less costly way but it must also enable the people who live there to adapt their environment to suit their changing needs, so that they choose to stay there.

Architecturally, the BedZed scheme is exciting but the design is so strongly governed by the need to address sustainability that the spaces between and around the buildings suffer. Where is the urban design? How does it respond to its surroundings? Does it create a successful sustainable place?

James Snell, design director HTA Architects, London NW1

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