Forest Gate in Newham has little enough going in its favour without the AJ and Will Alsop knocking its efforts to pull itself up by its bootstraps (AJ 15.5.03). EH and the local authority have produced a refurbishment that is popular with the locals and cost only £400,000. Somehow it offends your sensibilities - so what?
Mr and Mrs Patel, the newsagents who live there, like it. They say: 'It's great. People are seeing the history and quality of their street for the first time if this had not happened, we were thinking of closing down.'
And from the luxury of his recliner on a rock near our Gracie's house on the Isle of Capri, Will Alsop, like an architectural Victor Meldrew, disapproves. Yet the actual cost to the locals was five per cent of the total, probably less than Will spends jetting around while the rest of the world in Forest Gate can only dream.
London and other cities in the UK have streets lined with decaying buildings scarred by graffiti, and boarded-up shops with floor upon floor of derelict accommodation above. With work like this they could be brought back into use. If what has happened in Forest Gate had happened as a similar exercise did in Bologna 25 years ago, you would be singing its praises. But because it happens on our doorstep you rubbish it. Far from needing less, our towns need a bit more of this. This is real brownfield redevelopment.
I write this sitting in front of my iMac on the 35th anniversary to the day of the collapse of Ronan Point. That was also in Newham.What a contrast.
Sam Webb, Canterbury