Letter: After Corbusier

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I fear that you encourage a repeat of the very failure that you so roundly condemn. The issue is not whether to demolish high-rise slums, but with what to replace them (leading article, 16 September).

You suggest that Le Corbusier's model does not easily transfer from the Mediterranean to Hulme and that the Unite Habitation at Marseilles was built "for the rich on the Riviera". No, sir. It was built as public housing.

The reason that these blocks were so desirable was that they were not just blocks of apartments. Each building also contained shops, school, swimming-pool, sports hall and gymnasium, hairdressers and coffee shop. It was a splendid illustration of the concept of mixed development, a heresy both to British planners and British developers. If the Unite had been recreated in its entirety to provide council housing for Manchester in the Sixties, then, I suggest, it would now be highly desirable, albeit in owner-occupation, as it has now become in Marseilles.

Historically in the UK, both planners and developers have resisted the idea of mixing land-uses in a single development. Many of us believe that this is the conspicuous failure of post-war development, particularly housing. It may or may not be a good idea to demolish the worst of our Sixties towers, but nothing should be done until we have given serious thought to what might become sustainable replacements.


School of the Environment

Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education