Sunday, 7 April 2013

Come, Kim Jong-Un, Drop One on Slough ...

I have been driving along the coast east and west of Brighton this week. You wouldn't think that this is one of the richer parts of one of the richest countries in the world. So much cheap ("Jerry Built" it was once called), nasty, dilapidated housing, not fit for humans now. Unplanned, unsuitable and unloved. Maybe lots of money is spent on Do It Yourself - but only for interior titivating of houses which should be demolished.

Drive up to London through Croydon, Streatham and Brixton and you will see the same semi-urban building squalor.

Nowhere for the dustbins, nowhere for the cars, cheap and nasty windows, Bend Yourself Double rooms in roofs, broken masonry, old aerials, litter ....

Only bombing could make us start again. That's why German towns are so much more solid. They all had to be rebuilt after the British carpet bombed them flat - and, remarkably, they were re-built well. Solid walls, sensible proportions (medium rise flats, green spaces ...). Always somewhere for the dustbins....

House prices and rents are proportionately lower in Germany, so people have disposable income to spend on maintaining the buildings they live in. Unlike Britain, Germany is not a country run for the benefit of landlords and property developers.

When you see new housing going up in Germany - or the Czech Republic to take another example - what you most often see are medium-rise apartment blocks with fairly generous green areas around. You don't see "Boutique developments" or "Exclusive collections" - or the rabbit hutches which accompany these property developer descriptions. You see sensible homes at sensible prices.

Most people enter their adult lives hoping to find secure and reasonably well-paid employment and somewhere decent and affordable to live. British politicians respond to this by shaking their heads and telling you that these are things you can't have. Why not settle for Trident submarine replacement instead? After all, in North Korea people starve so that Kim Jong-Un can play with his missiles.




1 comment:

  1. You are so right, on every level, architecture is one of the highest forms of the visual arts and design because it determines the types of buildings people live in, work in, are educated in, inhabit whilst they are sick and maybe spend their last days in, worship in, shop in, are entertined in, everything in effect, and the design affects consciousness in profound ways it is difficult to qualify, but we know it exists.

    Victorian schools for instance were built with really high ceilings, maybe this was about something more than just being heated with coal fires, was it about the principle that 'crowds' are better managed with a higher ceiling to floor ratio, which seems to have been thrown out in much modern school design and other public buildings.

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