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Unhealthy blurring of politics and architecture

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Letters

Thank you for covering Docomomo's event about Pimlico School (AJ 15.2.01). Our organisation has long been a supporter of this important 1960s building.

But the saga of its fate raises wider issues than those covered by the original architect John Bancroft in his talk, or by your correspondent. This building was originally recommended by English Heritage's specialists for listing in that elite category of Grade II*, but political, and not design, factors led to rejection of any listing.

That unsavoury mixing of issues - which should on principle be kept separate - has left it unprotected and hence an ideal target for a dose of 'money-saving' Private Finance Initiative. It has also created the general impression that this is a building whose architectural qualities are of no consequence to the unusual atmosphere of the school community.While social factors are important in all architecture, they are fundamental to the whole mission of the Modern Movement and are part of what we recognise as 'quality' in its best examples.

As buildings of this calibre start to come up for listing and adaptation during the lifetimes of their original architects, Docomomo has advocated that there should be an obligation upon client bodies to actively involve original designers in any development of updating proposals. There are moral arguments for this, which in Europe tend to be taken more seriously than here, but there are also powerful practical ones. In the case of an 'unprotected' building like Pimlico, which finds itself in the epicentre of political wrangling, it is a brave individual architect who asserts that right for himself, in the interests of his building's community client.

One final question has to be asked in the week when the government announced the abolition of any retirement age (again under pressure of European practice). Is ageism really part of the AJ philosophy?

Sir Denys Lasdun died in the saddle at 86 with masterly works still under construction and Verdi was still composing at 88.

Creativity plainly has no upper age limit. Is it therefore being suggested that ' 72-year-old Bancroft' is too old or too young?

Anyway, how old are the designers at Hawkins/Brown? Surely we should be told that too!

Catherine Cooke, chair, Docomomo UK, Cambridge

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