We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.
Winston Churchill, in a speech to the House of Commons, 28th October 1943
I am certain that readers of this blog are familiar with the effects of the freemarket economy on the High Street of their town. The dreaded phenomenon of the ‘clone town’, for example, is far from new, and the denaturing and dehumanising effect of multinational capitalism remains a concern from Cambridge to Exeter to Richmond.
Equally, I am sure that in most towns in England, there is a shopping centre or arcade or something similar that was foisted upon the inhabitants by a ‘devolopment company’ or other shadowy dictator of that ilk. In my town, this is very much the case: we are ‘blessed’ with a largely redundant eyesore of a 1960s shopping centre that comes complete with a tower block, a leering slum in the sky as the focal centrepiece in its rapidly-decaying hulk. I am certain that this is a familiar story across the land. It is curious, therefore, that very little concern is given to the sheer scale of the destruction of England’s towns and cities – both past and ongoing- and the impact of this on our physical and social community.
Over the course of the next week, I shall be examining this phenomenon in three parts. The first of these, ‘The Tyranny of the New’, will examine how the dominance of progress in the political agendas of both Conservative and Labour Governments caused the redrawing of the maps of both the built environment of England and community relations.
Cultural vandalism has been both implicit and explicit in the slow decline of England and its values. For too long, the crimes of anti-English architects and town planners has been ignored as a vital factor in the changing shape of our nation. It is time to analyse exactly what we have lost, what we will lose if we are unaware, and how we might go about preventing a future where we must lead our children around the ruins of our once-proud, formerly unique urban spaces.