Owen Hatherley (We’re destroying our modernist heritage on a whim: Why is Britain so under the wrecking ball?, March 31) is right that our cities will only prosper if we get the right balance between keeping everything and freedom for developers. for everyone. In theory, the list system ensures that the best of each era is saved from destruction, and the overall mix gets richer and richer. But, as Hatherley notes, the listing is a “crude instrument” and a tool that developers know only too well how to handle. It is true that it suits them to maintain that the inscription of the buildings of the XXth century is always controversial.
In fact, conservation is now quite broad-minded and has overcome the fact that many outstanding modernist buildings now listed sit on the rubble of grand Victorian buildings – none of them will be brought back into existence by punitive magic . demolition of the old one. We have a great chance to make sure we don’t make the same mistake again.
Now that we understand the impact of demolition on climate change, there are all the more reasons to prioritize the reuse of structures for environmental reasons – there are still plenty of sites for new masterpieces (only 2% of the housing stock is listed). As with cherished buildings from earlier eras, the best examples from the 20th century deserve gentle conservation. We should stop trashing our modernist heritage.
Director, Twentieth Century Society, London
The problem with Owen Hatherley’s plea for the preservation of modernist buildings from the 1960s and 1970s is that at no point does he mention the people who should live or work there. Does he live in a 25-story concrete tower, where elevators break down, or does he shop in a dark, windswept neighborhood with chunks falling off the facade? While no one disputes that towns and cities must evolve, the reality is that many examples of modernism have been abandoned without regard to local history, geography, materials or traditions, or the practicalities of daily life.
Le Corbusier’s whole idea of modernism was fundamentally monumental, inhuman in scale and rather authoritarian. Architecture can be both functional and attractive. If we still have to look to the distant past for beauty, so be it. But modernism has never been about compromising with the past, or even the way people want to live. It failed for the same reason that the Victorian Gothic style ultimately failed. They were best in small doses, not the often large-scale blitzkrieg of urban centers and communities.
Owen Hatherley expertly sheds light on the dilemma faced by city planners, who seem to fall into two distinct groups: those who approach each building as a separate design problem to be solved, and those who have a long-term vision for whom the completed downtown was a concept. influence their design approach. I grew up in Coventry, where wartime destruction gave architects the opportunity to produce a grand plan. What happened was more like a series of changes that in many cases had to be redesigned. The commercial area of the compound was later demolished, as it became apparent that the first floor, accessed by an external staircase, was very unpopular with shoppers.
The contrast with Birmingham is striking. There, someone saw the big picture, and a walk from Brindley Place to Symphony Hall is an enjoyable experience for anyone sensitive to the visual stimuli offered by attractive buildings situated in harmony with each other. I wish I could be more faithful to the town of my childhood, but the older parts will always be what I remember most fondly.