English Heritage has 'overstepped its brief ' in a big way. In a lightning sideways move from preserver to devastater, it has recommended 10 high buildings in London for demolition.
Absolute outrage by architects is predictable. The change of such an organisation from respectful chronicler to usurper of one of our cherished (if most often imaginary) roles, that of dynamic modeller of urban space, speaks to the depths of our professional insecurity. But logically it is difficult to justify the profession having it three different ways. On the one hand we want laws to assert that our best work should remain forever.
On the other hand we don't want heritage to get in the way of our design freedom. And on yet a third hand we think post-war architectural mediocrity should remain in perpetuity.
But at the moment there is no possibility for pro-active urban design. We must wait until money or chance dictates. While a Community Demolition Act, complete with powers of compulsory purchase, remains unlikely, why is it reprehensible for an organisation to vie for positive improvement? The public's love affair with all things past emasculates the power of architecture to influence a better future - or so we often say.
English Heritage's proposal throws down the gauntlet, challenging the profession to show it can and will do better than the past. We must surely welcome this change in public interest from passive to active.