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Mac the knife

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Richard MacCormac was on incisive form at the CABE annual design review dinner, mentioned briefly last week. His after-dinner talk covered more than 30 years of practice, and delivered some well-placed darts into received opinion. How about this on Abercrombie's planning ideas for post-war London: 'Like a pre-emptive strike by Donald Rumsfeld.'Or his reminder that the Peckham health experiment of the 1930s, much lauded by certain architects, was described in a contemporary account as 'biologists in search of material'. His big warning on PFI was that government and local government are asking 'industry and a pliant profession' to provide quantity at speed. We have been here before, and it didn't work. The reaction against vacuous and hopeless bastardised Modernism, in the form of high-rise social housing of the 1960s, resulted in his Cambridge students abandoning the design of buildings, preferring to 'smoke pot, meditate in trees, make their own clothes, and squat in empty gasholders'. What then happened? 'The most difficult personalities of that generation of the early '70s are now partners in prominent commercial practices and appear before CABE in their best suits'.

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