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Invest in people, rather than preserve in aspic

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I am disappointed to observe that the Twentieth Century Society is to step up opposition to changes proposed for the Byker Estate in Newcastle (AJ 3.10.02). I enjoyed living in the Wall until earlier this year, revelling daily in the spectacular views, the inventive urban design and the exquisitely tuned architectural spaces that Erskine has bestowed upon the people of Byker. It is truly a place worth fighting for, but not with the intention of turning Byker into a museum piece.

Byker is a dynamic, living, changing community. Erskine's architecture is all about responding to the needs and aspirations of the resident community, but as an architect and resident-bychoice, I cringe in shame when intellectuals insist that the heritage value of the buildings overrides the firmitas, utilitas, venustas designated for the working classes. If they truly understand that Erskine originally intended for the estate to serve its residents, rather than vice versa, then the intellectual end of the architectural spectrum should prepare to concede to alternative means of protecting the spirit embodied in Byker.

Investing in people, not aspic, would be particularly effective.

My wife and I moved from Byker because our neighbourhood suddenly deteriorated, and because we were lucky enough to have a choice to do so:

after four years she no longer felt safe at night, and eventually neither did I.

We still have close friends in the Wall, many of whom will freely make available to Catherine Croft a guest bed in their lounge for a full-colour, 24/7 visit. This is a particularly good time of year to visit. One can admire the ritual of daily pyrotechnics which necessitates the proposed Fire Station which the Twentieth Century Society assesses as a threat to the architecture of Byker.

Tim Robinson, Gateshead

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