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Supermarket design - would you buy it?

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I agree with your statement that supermarkets should work with local planning authorities to try and produce a good standard of architecture and environment in connection with their social functions (Editorial, AJ 18.1.01).

But this ignores the priorities of supermarkets' chief executive officers and shareholders.

Supermarkets are in business to provide cheap food and goods and to beat their competitors. Their buildings are an overhead to be kept to a minimum - an extension of the can in which the food is sold. That 'can' (read building) is produced as cheaply as possible to keep the cost of the goods down.

How many of your readers actually looked at the cost per square metre of the Chetwood Associates' Sainsbury's at Greenwich.

It was not a cheap can, even with all the long-term energy savings.

How many supermarkets in this country would satisfy the criterion of your editorial? A more upmarket can is only produced to make the sale. In all other cases brand name and low prices are relied on to attract customers.

Good architecture is not necessarily expensive, but there is very little you can do with a steel shed clad with insulated crinkly tin, other than to create a cleanlined steel shed. You can chuck mounds of turf or white sails at the entrance, but round the back it's the same old junk at the lowest cost. How many readers have noticed that supermarkets all seem to have nails sticking out through the underside of the roof panels?

With the arrival of Wal-mart and its expansionism in the UK, the situation is going to get worse. Its aim is the global domination of retail outlets and damn the communities they squat in.You only have to look at the fate of small-town America.

But. . . we all want cheap food and goods - we get the cans that we deserve.

Tim Drewitt, London NW3

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