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KATHERINE SHONFIELD

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We live in times of exhortation. Inexpensive declamatory homilies have proved even harder to resist for this government than the last one. The government's latest white paper proves that exhortation now has the effrontery to penetrate where laws, money, and certainly architecture can never reach: the intimate behaviour of the family. Behind every exhortation telling you to do something because it's good for you, there is an undeclared third party who will be the real beneficiary. If, for example, we all behave as per the 'preferred family' in the white paper, the government benefits by huge reductions in health and social payouts. Effective architecture, on the other hand, must ask not what the family can do for it, but what architecture can do for the family: it is the antithesis of exhortation.

That is probably why the present administration seems to have forgotten what architecture is for. There are no millennium dss offices, daycare centres and nurseries, places that could give relationships between parents, partners and children the literal and figurative space to take on their own unique forms. All the government can think of for architects to do are millennium-backed projects for galleries, museums and visitor centres, brim-full of mute exhortations on what kind of people we should be, and how we should behave. And what else will the Dome be but the biggest, loudest and most interminable set of exhortations ever built?

Exhortation about how to live your life always brings to mind a large, well-meaning, middle-aged lady. These days she is pictured with a loudhailer outside a warren of invisible tunnels, attempting to command subterranean road protesters to stop being so silly. The real pity of all this ceaseless exhortation is that it is such a total waste of time.

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