Letters to the editor
Give architects a role in investing in communities
The riots are a direct consequence of policies which alienate architects, pander to big business and line the pockets of bankers, developers, PFI companies, and other private organisations at the expense of the public purse.
The link between the location of the riots and the areas of greatest deprivation is frightening – see map.
The urban youth are streetwise – they are no fools. They can access information and communicate with great dexterity. How many of these rioters come from decent homes and how many have been educated in decent schools that do not leak, that are warm, secure and welcoming? How many are stranded in housing estates that have been poorly maintained and where community support and facilities are being run down and closed?
While estates like Pembury remain ghettos for the underprivileged where the environment is hostile and Parker Morris space standards seen as a luxury there can be little hope of change.
Riots in new regeneration areas point to the schism where ordinary people cannot even afford the new (sub-standard) peoples’ palaces – the £160 million regeneration in Dalston by Barratt Homes, for instance, boasts residents’ gym, 24-hour concierge, buzzing public square, shops, a library… and a two-bed apartment will set you back £350,000.
Currently millions are wasted in publicly funded building programmes where major procurement and planning decisions are made by people who have no training and little knowledge in relation to the decisions that have to be made. We have some of the best talent in the world. We could have regeneration projects that would make Hammarby or Malmö look old fashioned.
It is about time that government embraced architects and allowed them to participate fully in civil society. We need to reopen architects’ departments so that our schools, hospitals, social housing and civic centres can be led by those who put their energy into investing in communities rather than appeasing or exploiting them.
London is unique
Haussmann did not remodel Paris by widening streets as Ellis Woodman writes (“Will riots reshape our cities?” Leader August 12) but largely by forming new streets which crossed the older Parisian fabric of medieval and later thoroughfares and spaces which had casually evolved. What remained of these was divided into sectors between the new streets.
London never had that treatment and grew as a metropolis of informally developed residential neighbourhoods focused on casually distributed centres, where shopping and social facilities were concentrated and which acquired the characteristics of the centres of free-standing towns.
Most developed from older market towns or villages, as surviving buildings, street patterns and names indicate. The recent disturbances seem to have been concentrated in such places, whether city-scale such as Croydon, large-town scale such as Ealing, or with integrated housing and small shops as at Tottenham. By no means all are in dominantly poor areas: Croydon and Ealing are very mixed, districts which offer relative affluence predominating; Enfield is split geographically between affluence and relative poverty.
Before modern patterns of shopping evolved, few people in inner or outer suburban London would have done their shopping in the central metropolitan area; it would have been concentrated in the Croydons, Ealings, Camden Towns, Stratfords and Lewishams of Greater London.
How far have regional planners and urban historians fully understood that this is the basic pattern of 19th and 20th century London and is unique among the large metropolises?
David W Lloyd (author of The Making of English Towns)
Old Harlow, Essex
Your photographs and critique of the overblown and out of scale Museum of Liverpool (Buildings August 12) on one of the world’s best known riverfronts show a greater vandalism in the city than the recent riots.
It is rather sad that in the same issue you should use a picture of two burnt-out cars in Toxteth to highlight the recent inner-city problems. In my view this was lazy journalism as Toxteth 2011 is quite a different place from Toxteth 1981. A picture up the road from your news desk in Tottenham might have been more appropriate, with the greater mayhem, death and destruction in Manchester, the West Midlands and London.
The minor disruption to life in Liverpool with the rioting will be but a blip in the history of the city. Sadly, the citizens of Liverpool and their tourists and visitors are now stuck with the vandalism on their beloved waterfront.
Alisdair M Macdonald