As a social historian with an interest in urban architecture and the forces influencing its development, I have recently started reading the AJ.One of the things I have noticed in its pages is the 'democratic deficit' displayed by many Modern architects when faced with serious local opposition to their designs. It is perfectly possible to regard a design as unsuitable for its proposed location without being against Modern architecture as a whole.
This attitude is perfectly illustrated in Piers Gough's outburst against Camden council (AJ 29.4.04) over its continuing rejection of his scheme at Fortune Green, West Hampstead.
How dare the plebeian councillors of Camden deny the scheme proposed by developer Sager and its architect Piers Gough? Don't they know he is a renowned architect, for God's sake? Any scheme he designs must, by virtue of his hand upon it, be entirely suitable for the site. Only the ignorance of the grex venalium (venal throng) of Camden and their elected leaders prevents them from seeing this. And as for the snivelling Camden planners, don't they know it is their ordained duty to force through the wondrous schemes proposed by the famous Piers Gough?
Speaking to the Camden New Journal recently, Liberal Democrat leader Flick Rea said: 'I probably have had more letters about this than any other issue since I came on to the council 16 years ago. I cannot tell you the strength of feeling about this. It is quite extraordinary.'
A spokeswoman for residents' group West Hampstead Amenity and Transport described Gough's scheme as '?an enormous block in a very Modern style in a very quiet residential area between the green and the cemetery. The neighbourhood is absolutely against it.'
Gough apparently regards this totality of opposition as manufactured, with 'councillors whipping everybody up [against the scheme]', and claims the continuing rejection of his scheme has caused him to suffer 'ritual humiliation' at the hands of planning chiefs. To which the response might be: get a life, Piers!
If anyone wants to understand the reasons why Modern architects, developers and town planners are so widely mistrusted, then Gough's comments make compulsory reading.
Way to go, London Borough of Camden.
Hazelle Jackson, Twickenham