Pearls of wisdom or wasted words?

The commission produces many leaflets and brochures. Claire Allfree examines some typical examples
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The Independent Culture
Title:

Lighten Our Darkness

The assessment:

With a foreword starting "The time has come to put drama back into the British night, to celebrate the art of illumination and the romance of shadow", combined with the somewhat impassioned title, one might be forgiven for thinking that this is the ravings of a mystic cult instead of a government-sponsored investigation into urban lighting.

In essence, the pamphlet is a valid assessment of problems: ranging from the gradual disappearance of the stars in the night sky through light pollution to the insensitive lighting of many of our public buildings. Inevitably the new is compared unfavourably with the old, the historic buildings are portrayed as the victims of the brash lighting radiating from department stores and advertisements, and the Oxford Street Christmas lights are particularly criticised for their insensitivity to their environment.

The principal impulse is definitely one of maintaining conservative good taste but the strategies suggested for achieving it are only vaguely articulated, concentrating mostly on what should be done instead of real ideas on how to do it.

Medicis and the Millennium?

The Assesment:

The question mark here is highly appropriate to this most imposing of titles. However, the pamphlet's aim of criticising the Government's patronage of architecture seems more promising.

The report dwells extensively on the individual government departments responsible for different public buildings and the consequent problems this causes, which makes dry reading given the intricacies of bureaucracy involved. Too much attention is given over to internal politics, but the booklet can be praised for consistently returning to its rallying call.

Examples are given of projects that have suffered because of bad judgement and lack of vision and the British government is compared unfavourably with those on the Continent.

However, one cannot help wishing the booklet had made a stronger cry for fresh innovative design instead of being so preoccupied with planning commissions.

Design in the High Street:

The Assessment:

Again an admirable stance is taken on the encroaching horrors of cheap and functional high street architecture. This is a more in-depth analysis of town planning and examines the relationship between architecture and the shopping experience. The pedestrian crossing comes under attack for "marshalling" of shoppers across the street and then stranding them on the central refuge.

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