The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Owen Luder doesn’t call for demolition of Lavenham!

I was asked to be on the Mark Forest Show last night.  This goes out across all BBC Local radio stations every evening (I guess that’s an economy measure)and mixes ABBA, Elton John and phone ins.   Last night it was “who should pay for health care for the elderly” with “what buildings would you like to see demolished” for a bit of light relief.   The demolition story was prompted by the news that bulldozers had moved in at a derelict school at Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire, which has been “a deathtrap” for years.   No one seemed to know what age the school buildings were (and it was surprisingly hard to tell from the Internet, but I’d say late C19th).  However, the BBC’s assumption was that most people would vote for 60s buildings, and so they go me and Owen Luder   on for a few minutes each.  (Owen Luder is the architect of the Tricorn, “Get Carter Car” park and the Dunstone Rocket–all gone, photos of the last of these in our forthcoming magazine)

Luder did his spot first, and suggested that seeing a building you’ve designed be demolished  is no where near as bad as loosing a son, which felt raw and heartbreaking, but was obviously not the angle Mark was expecting, and was rapidly glossed over.   He than said that towns and cities grow and change, and buildings do become obsolete.   He reflected on how his own buildings have been viewed very differently, decade by decade, concluding “in the naughties they were in danger of being listed” –sadly that didn’t quite happen.

He actually said a lot of very sane things; ” don’t keep everything, only the really special”,  “the acid test is ‘is it a building that can be updated?'”, and he noted that although some of his 1960s office buildings no longer work as offices, several have been successfully concerted for residential use.

He cited Lavenham (gorgeous half timbered buildings) as an example of a town which is now  “a musuem peice” and no longer has the economic successs that led to its growth (all based on sheep/wool etc, as aI recall, but that’s not the point).    I think what he meant by this was that if we keep all the buildings of the 60s, we will not allow for economic developement and growth–but of course noone is arguing for that.

When it came to me, I was asked “so Owen Luder wants to demilish the whole of Lavenham, what do you want to see come down?” .   I challenged this, and although it was all very good natured, the interview  left me brooding on a couple of things, and especially this:

Why just because we like post war buildings is it assumed that we dislike older ones?  

The best thing about the slot on the show, was that it showed that what most people hate most is buildings that are neglected and  vandalised and situations where it seems like nothing is happening.    That seems totally reasonable.



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