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Yours views: The Big Rethink is too little too late

Index big rethink 3

AR reader Michael Badu responds to The Big Rethink

The AR’s ‘Big Rethink’ comes too late to have any really meaningful effect. Where Peter Buchanan’s article has perhaps trumped similar offerings to other periodicals is in the severity and urgency of its tone and in the direct, albeit qualified, criticism of named practices; a dubious honour, but the author has probably only written what has already been said at dinner parties, cafés and lecture theatres over the past few years.

There is more to the malaise which afflicts architecture than the simple cult of the starchitect. Ultimately, we must as architects and theorists admit our powerlessness in the face of larger forces. Modernism was the child of the industrial revolution, leading to an unprecedented break in the continuing evolution of craft techniques that had always underpinned architecture, but which had never been properly acknowledged. This meant that the technical and cultural failures of many of the products of Modernism were probably inevitable.

In Switzerland, Sergison bates has just completed yet another ‘cheap plain building with quiet unobtrusive dignity’, the type which Buchanan has rightly identified as being tragically beyond the reach of most architects, but which Sergison Bates seems to have mastered.It says much about the current state of affairs in this country that practices like theirs seem more welcome on the continent than in the United Kingdom.

In the 1970s (when I was born) the unfashionable Robert and Brenda Vale carried out their autonomous house project and concluded that the continuing growth of cities (and the economic growth that underpins it) is not compatible with sustainable development. Increasingly, it’s looking as if they were right, but few in the profession have really taken them seriously. Alas for the AR, Buchanan and others like them, because the horse bolted a long, long time ago.

Michael Badu, Michael Badu Architecture, London

The Big Rethink

The Architectural Review is inviting essays. letters and contributions to engage with The Big Rethink. Write to

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