According to an article on the Today Programme this morning, Bath is in danger of loosing its World Heritage Site status as a result of redevelopment of the city. Indeed over 12,000 residents have reportedly signed a petition complaining about the possible erection of a new building in the city because – shock horror – it is steel and glass instead of the more traditional stone. Rumour has it that a number of local councillors lost their seats recently because they’d allowed such a monstrosity (their words) to get through planning.
Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not for the wholesale destruction of our existing buildings – many are indeed beautiful or historically important enough to warrant saving. Likewise modern architecture has produced some absolute monstrosities, but it has also produced some gems.
However I do feel that this is a good example of a wider symptom of a malady that the British Public suffers from, one that I like to refer to as “We fear change”. Anything that doesn’t fit within a narrow band of what Joe Public feels is acceptable for their environment (and trust me, Joe Public on discovering that I’m an architect will 50% of the time begin to chastise me as if I’m personnally responsible for every new building in the country and the way in which they blot the landscape), usually conforming to a classical or romanesque ideal. Charlie Boy may be out of touch with the public on many things but he hit this topic right on the head.
Anything different is a travesty, modern is wrong, change is bad…or is it? Well, sometimes (see my caveat) yes, change should be resisted, but resisting changes to our environment just because it doesn’t look look the rest of what you like will not allow cities to grow in the manner they should. Give modern a go, or at least its day in court – its the only way we are going to be able to innovate.
Just keep your hands off The Brown Jug…