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Lord Rogers on problems along the path of progress

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Anyone hoping to hear Lord Rogers let rip against the government for its failure of nerve in the Urban White Paper was destined to be disappointed at the new City Architect's London School of Economics/Royal Academy lecture.While Rogers reaffirmed his opinion that the measures recommended by the White Paper - notably that 60 per cent of new development should be on brownfield sites, and that density per hectare must be increased - simply do not go far enough, he did not use the occasion to air any views on the government's faults and failings in respect of urban policy.

Now a member of Ken Livingstone's cabinet, Lord Rogers is potentially in a strong position to 'push the government to make the city the heart of its policies rather than somewhere in the distance', as he desires, depending on how much real power the new Greater London Authority proves to have.

He voiced a commitment to the much-criticised congestion charges which Livingstone has tied himself to, condemning traffic and its pollution as major factors inducing fear in city inhabitants 'of our own city environment'. He also insisted on the 'direct correlation between social exclusion and physical dereliction'which politicians had been trying to evade for years, although he made no comments about the Spatial Development Strategy and its political dimensions.

Most of Lord Rogers' comments were general, affirming the importance of implementing a wide-ranging strategy of sustainability in urban policy and architectural design, and the inadequacy of UK performance on almost all fronts. He heaped fulsome praise on the achievements of Barcelona in transforming the image and reality of its urban life, which he said had turned it into another 'Venice'of Europe, and underlined the fact that the UK lags 'at least 30 years behind', compared with the rest of Europe, in terms of looking after its cities: 'The sad thing about Manchester is that it needed a bomb to move it into the twentyfirst century'. He revealed that the UK is also at the bottom of the waste management league, more reliant on landfill than anyone else, and has the lowest urban densities of anywhere in Europe - a mere 23 households per hectare, compared with 100 plus in Georgian London, and 200 (formerly 400) in present-day Barcelona.

The framework that Lord Rogers delineated for the city of the future - compact, mixed-use, well-connected, and reliant on the sun, wind, earth and plant-life for its energy instead of fossil fuels - is familiar by now. But the path of progress looks far from easy. In Shanghai, where Lord Rogers'practice is designing a mixed-use hi-tech centre, the mayor had promised, 'don't worry, by 2000 we'll have banned bicycles'; and, nearer to home, the failure of both the Bartlett's planning school to teach three-dimensional design and its architecture school to give students a 'social education', indicate the persistence of habits that die hard.

Lord Rogers' talk, 'Cities for a Small Country', was part of the LSE/Royal Academy Public Architecture series. For details e-mail architecture@lse. ac. uk vital statistics The commercial property industry employs at least 10 per cent of the British workforce and contributes 9 per cent of GDP, according to Freeman's guide to the property industry, which also reveals that 30 per cent of the property industry plays golf.

The proportion of singleperson households is due to rise to 35 per cent of all households in the UK by 2021 from just 19 per cent in 1981.

During the 50 years between 1971 and 2021, the number of married couples will fall from 71 to 38 per cent.

Urban density and fuel consumption are closely correlated. In Houston, US, urban density is about 8 people per hectare and petrol consumption is 76,000 gallons per person. In Hong Kong density is 280 people per hectare and petrol use is 4,500 gallons per person.

In the UK,86 per cent of people live in suburbia while just 5 per cent live in rural areas and 9 per cent live in urban cores.

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