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View from NZ: England losing the picturesque

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The AJ for me is the strongest umbilical chord from the natural beauty of the South Island of NZ to London. Hellman's supremely amusing gossip not available in provincial society, Alsop's simple hedonism, to the crafted beauty of Roche Court by Munkenbeck + Marshall and finally, of course, real discourse on urban issues.

But another tide is rising through the AJ's pages.Whether in extreme global technology, clever academia excuses, the third way, alien cultures - however you try to define it - the picturesque-ness of England is disappearing.

Open up AJ 1/8.8.02: Page 3: Foster and Partners' 51 Lime Street.

This could be anywhere in the US or China. How can anyone say this will upstage Rogers' Lloyd's Building, which I remember so well as a perfect harmony of detailed care beside Leadenhall Market?

Page 5: Illuminated boxes with floating roofs. Again, this could be anywhere.

Page 6: Steel blades stabbing the ground.

You can do that, be a Richard Serra, make your own convict enclosure, spread as you wish, but by Stonehenge! And the illustration is totally unclear.

Page 7: How can anyone in Exeter believe in such simple 20s cubic assemblies?

Page 9: Does the old landscape of England need architecture of stealth or something eroded over time?

Wollaton Hall would choke in embarrassment.

Page 12: Does what looks like a quarter mile of simple glass meeting the water, without the slightest variety, ever remember the sedge-edged lakes of Wordsworth.

Page 14: The old net sheds of Hastings are going to be made redundant by this dried out seashell, and functionally just like old seashells, it is almost empty.

So it is with relief one comes to the excellent night view of the tilting bridge and the beautifully resolved Baltic Centre at Gateshead. Here is a continuous tradition understood. The Functional Tradition by Eric De Mare and Gordon Cullen's Townscape were essential reading for anyone who did not believe in the Modernist style, and recently, The Other Tradition by Colin St John Wilson. Any 1913 book on European architecture shows the richness of cultural diversity of each country, and speaks of the great loss Modernism has created.

Aalto's 'the Modern Movement did not go far enough' is never more evident than now.

Peter Beaven, Christchurch, New Zealand

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